Full Contact Enlightenment
It’s my belief that we Buddhists are quite a fortunate lot. We’re used to sitting (and sitting, and sitting, and sitting again) with our deep murky minds and examining our fears, desires, habits, tendencies and for lack of a better description “the dark side” (and conversely, “the light side”).
Don’t we sound lucky?
Maybe I’m romanticizing things here, but I think that all of this inquiry into suffering, bodily decay and all of the juicy stuff helps position us to know when we’re a bit off kilter and shaky. It helps when we know ourselves to better see when we are in need of some help.
For a while I’ve been off. Heavy stuff has been going on in my life and as usual I’ve practiced avoidance. Thankfully I haven’t gone towards old (and more destructive) patterns of escaping. My avoidance is much more gentle now, Like a comfortable old sweater, I pull on old episodes of Seinfeld. I try to fill my time with things that comfort me. I make myself busy. I read a lot of self-help books. I read so many books to allow me to become a self-certified expert on disease, death, palliative care, depression, anxiety, yoga, french verbs, competitive eating, climate change…anything to escape.No subject is off limits when it comes to helping me feel less antsy.
You get the picture.
I avoid my cushion because I don’t want to face what’s hurting.I avoid facing it head on off the cushion as well.
I put on the stiff upper lip and carry on.
The pain remains. The confusion stays.
I sometimes feel like a failed Buddhist at times for not being better at this life stuff. I mean, I’ve been practicing for years here. Shouldn’t I be better at getting this impermanence business? Shouldn’t I see how samsara pulls me in? Shouldn’t I be sitting more? Shouldn’t I be more – sigh- mindful about all of this?
Newman is my Mara. Come indulge in some fine laughtracks. I’ll make you feel OK for a little while.
And then a little light shines in. Awareness that these habits aren’t serving me very well.
I can’t say enough about the power of a good therapist. I wish I would have continued working with mine back when I first went to see her when I started to feel cracks in my foundation. Ah regret. You’re a fine emotion too. I feel you too old friend. Well, it’s time to live in the present. I’m back in therapy and doing the work. I’m trying to find that gentle spot between being too slack with myself and cuddling up with Kramer and a glass of merlot or running off to a retreat in snowy Vermont. I’m trying both as the Middle Way approach and putting my therapist’s suggestions into practice. More mindfulness and compassion practices. Taking time to breathe (how often I forget). Trying to release my grip on my ever-present need to have control over it all. Being with what is. Practicing. On and off the cushion. Facing my fears.
I think almost every time I write about a book on this blog, I say the familiar, “Isn’t is awesome when a book crosses your path at the exact moment that you needed it?” I’ve been reading two meaningful books lately which have really been helpful at this time.
The first is Mark Epstein’s “The Trauma of Everyday Life” and it is all that I needed to read and more. Transforming all of the sads that I’ve been feeling into something workable and positive gets a “Hell Yeah” fist pump out of me. The book gets into the often left out story of the loss of the Buddha’s mother and how this may have impacted his life.
The second book that I’ve only started reading now is Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance.” Friends. Why did you not recommend this book to me earlier? I am now a complete fangirl for her writing and it’s just what I needed to bury my head in.
It’s funny how when I hear about other Buddhist practitioners who have worked with their own challenges (like Epstein and Brach) and realize that I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that they’re somehow immune to suffering or have become therapist-enlightened enough to not have experienced it or gotten over it. Similarly, when I read about teachers such as Pema Chodron or Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche confessing to having panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed or in essence – being human, I’m strangely comforted in knowing I’m not alone. If these rockstars have been confronted with stinking thinking – then I’m no different. Blessed equanimity!
And you’re not alone either. If you are a Buddhist with the blues, seek help if you need it. We need all the healthy bodhisattvas we can get out there doing the work.
Oh and coincidentally, I just read this article titled, “Emotional Health is the new Sexy” on Elephant Journal and wanted to share it with you.
Raise your hand if you’re starting to feel your age. If you can lift you arm.
Time’s really marching on. We Buddhists are aware of this on a “we hear, contemplate and study this kind of thing all the time” but when it really hits you – ooof.
There’s a guy that goes to many of the heavier music shows and this guy is righteous. He has a long ZZ Top-esque beard that is as white as snow and he wears obscure band t-shirts on his skinny rocker frame. He’s into it all. He’s not going through the neuroses that I’ve seen people go through when they hit their mid-life crisis and worry about what people think of them. Whether they’re too old for Manic Panic tinged hair. For skirts that are above the knee. Any of the rules that generations hear and then berate themselves over.
Dude just rocks out and doesn’t give a flip.
I read this Salon article recently and maybe it’s the wannabe sociologist in me but I get fascinated by how others are viewing this life transition. Are we aging in the same way as our parents? Are our values and priorities the same? Easier? Harder? Just different?
I buy up a lot of books and read a lot of studies on my generation because it’s a weird generation. Maybe it’s just me that has that feeling of it being weird or maybe it’s a generational thing that we’re all feeling because we’re Gen X-ers and well *shrugs shoulders.*
From the Salon article I mentioned above, “If you think this is typical Gen X whining, you are probably a boomer.”
Speaking of my generation…. I watched this lovely short film on Dharma Punx NYC’s Josh Korda and think you should check it out.
What do you think of being a Gen X-er? A Gen- X Buddhist? How are you navigating your new old agedness? Does it make you want to start a band? Pick up your skateboard again?
Here’s a great video from Tyler Dewar that speaks quite nicely to the non-proselytizing nature of Buddhism. I always liked this aspect of the tradition.
It’s funny how when I speak to being a Buddhist (when it comes up), people expect me to try and convert them. There’s a fear in their eyes that I’m going to get them to twist into a lotus-legged pretzel, do some kind of phlegmey nose breathing exercises and then try to engage them in some greasy, tantric sex as I thrust with a howling deep throat singing eruption of nyan-cat proportions.
Sadly nope. None of that happens.
It’s all pretty chill. You choose your own path friend and I wish you love, peace, blessings and freedom from suffering.
No hard sell there.
Polar vortex season is just around the corner and another Canadian winter to grit my teeth through is licking at my Vans.
Not a fan. Yes I know. Equanimity. Yes. There’s likely a sermon about some wise ass who got hit with a boot (it’s beyond sandal weather, so take that Tilopa) for disparaging the weather. Sorry. I’m doing my best. A Buddhist Work in Progress.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a linkage list. Here’s what’s hit my radar as interesting, irritating, passionate, aggressive or neutral. Enjoy!
- I’ve been reading a few more non-Buddhisty books. I just finished Lena Dunham’s book (I freaking loved it!) and am just starting to crack a Kindle spine for “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.” Here’s a link to an excerpt in case your curious. Not that everything I’m reading is fun and games, I thoroughly enjoyed Atul Gawande‘s “Being Mortal.”
- This is a bit of an older blog post, but oh it’s too good not to share. “Hits and Misses on This Wonky Path” from 108 Zen Books. And the discussion around mindfulness continues on and on and on… I will likely be debating it during my next lifetime.
- Art from Carlito Dalceggio
- More art – Michelangelo Pistoletto
- A closer look at how habits work from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
Hugo Latulippe is the new spokesperson of ‘A Day in Tibet’
Montreal, November 4, 2014 : ‘A Day in Tibet’ is Quebec’s largest event dedicated to the fascinating Tibetan culture and its presevation. This year’s edition will take place Nov. 8 – 9, at Notre Dame de la Salette Church, in Montreal (3535 Parc Ave).
This annual event brings together Quebec’s Tibetan community and thousands of Montrealer interested in the Tibetan culture, religion and human rights.
This year’s spokesperson is Hugo Latulippe – filmmaker, author and long time supporter of the Tibetan cause. His award winning documentary What remains of us is still a remarkable contribution that brings awareness to the Tibetan culture, in Québec and beyond. His activist art is echoed by the Cultural Fair participants: ‘once you bring objects into the world, through painting, sculpture, film, or anything else, you are an activist’, says Latulippe.
The event features a handicrafts bazaar, live traditional music and dance performances, as well as Tibetan cuisine. Many other events will take place throughout the two days: book launches, film screenings and debates, with the participation of writers, researchers and activists.
The event is a major fundraising activity for the Canada Tibet Committee, an independent non-governmental organization promoting human rights and freedom for the Tibetan people. The CTC is funded entirely by individual donations and special events. The Tibetan Cultural Association of Québec preserves Tibetan cultural traditions, including performing arts, within the diaspora community in Québec.
Saturday November 8, 10am – 6pm
Sunday November 9, 10am-5pm
Notre Dame de la Salette Church, 3535 Ave du Parc (corner Milton), Place des Arts Metro
Admission: $5; Seniors and students: $3; Under 12: free
More information: the event Facebook page
The post Montreal’s Annual Tibetan Cultural Fair and Bazaar 2014 appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
I just finished reading Andrew Furst’s book, “Western Lights” and do have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s a collection of short essays that he recently published based on some of the blogging Andrew was doing for the Buddhist Meditation Group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading.
From his website:
“It speaks about eastern concepts like Karma, Hope, Attachment, and Emptiness from a personal perspective and in terms familiar to Americans. They’re grounded in subject matter familiar to Americans like Politics, Science, Psychology, Heaven, and Nature.”
“Western Lights” covers a lot of ground with each short chapter and it’s a clear and concise read. It delivers snippets of Andrew’s personal perspectives, his background and his teachings. His childhood, Christian background, work and family all present strongly in how they relate to his approach to the Dharma.
It’s a modern, Western take on Buddhism and speaks a bit to various meditation practices that Andrew recommends as well as the practices within the Pure Land tradition of which he is a part of. Don’t let this scare you off. The book is quite accessible. One doesn’t need to be too immersed in the concepts of Buddhism to get something out of it so it’s ideal for those who are looking for a book that covers a bit of everything- kind of like a sample platter. You get a few bites of some tasty morsels and then if interested, you can then go back for the full meal, or in this case – read, study, examine and practice further (I’m still working on several platefuls of karma over here)!
The book is a clear and easy read. It isn’t too philosophical or advanced and perfect for those who are somewhat aware of Buddhist concepts. There’s a moderate smattering of pop-culture references as is de rigueur with today’s Western Buddhist books.
Go visit Andrew’s site now where you can find out more about “Western Lights.”
Really. Where does it go?
Yes friends. All I’ve really been doing on this blog lately has been book reviews. None of the mindless grumbling that you fell in love with this blog for. I’m still here. Buried on books for both pleasure and study.
Anyone else reading Nagarjuna AND the new Lena Dunham book? Just me? OK. Moving on….
I’m also busily editing the upcoming anthology for SUMERU which has been on of the best things to pop up in my little life. I do hope that everyone likes it once released although I’m biased and do think you will.
So yeah. Time. Doesn’t seem like enough of it these days. Both for the little piddily tasks and the BIG philosophical holy shit time is passing, a birthday around the corner, sickness, old age, death kind of way. Things are hitting close to home and that’s feeling more and more normal.
It’s funny when I’m hit with shitty news. Like shock you off your seat news. There’s a weird depersonalization sensation. I get blank. Like a black out only I’m fully aware of everything. I’m hearing what’s being said. The words. All clear to me. Your pain. Your fear. I feel it. I’m feeling mine too. Cue a panic attack. Cue the stumbling for words. Oh hey lightheadedness. How are you doing? Heart. Where are you racing off too? Get back in my chest. Woo. I want to run away.
Sitting down with it.
Reading everything I can find on how to deal. How to cope. Reading the tough stuff. Watching documentaries that force me to see it. Uncovering all of the discomfort and letting the light shine on it.
You can’t turn away from this Tanya. This is life. And part of life is death.
You knew this.
Where does the time go?
This book came to me at the ideal time having started a new job and all of the neurosis that can follow from this kind of transition. Oh yes. It’s easy to get caught up in all kinds of thoughts, feelings, emotions, fears and habits.
“Will they like me?”
“Am I doing good work?”
“Can I keep up?”
“What if I fail?”
This job market is flip-flopping-floopy crazy, so it’s no wonder we’re all either scrambling to keep the job we have, grasping for that elusive dream gig, or spending our 9-5 in samsara and silently cursing our bosses and co-workers. No matter how Buddhist you are, however compassionate you feel that you are, when confronted with deadlines, egos and unreasonable demands, you are bound to suffer. Suffer hard.
Lodro Rinzler is that cheerful, bespectacled, bow-tie wearing classy chap who writes for the Buddhist millennial set. He’s written a book titled, “The Buddha Walks into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood for a New Generation” that seeks to help readers navigate through the common issues encountered at work. Jerkface bosses. Loud-mouthed colleagues. Killer deadlines. The ever-present question of “What is Right Livelihood exactly?” It’s all in this book and – more.
With the familiar format many Buddhist books take in moving from Hinayana to Mahayana to Vajrayana teachings, the book is a call to action for a bit more mindfulness, compassion and fearlessness at work. Lodro explores many of the teachings from Shambhala, it’s founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and it’s current head, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as he explores how we can be good Buddhist workmates. The book is funny, charming and smart. Lodro’s warmth and compassion shines brightly as he delivers insight and explores what it means to be a leader even when we aren’t holding the title of CEO.
Many of Lodro’s personal life experiences help illustrate the concepts presented within “The Buddha Walks into the Office” – some are hilarious, others are quite touching. Ever present in the book is the inherent desire that Lodro has for people to find their calling and live a life of purpose when it comes to work. This is very much a part of his life as the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an organization that helps develop young, compassionate leaders (hence the title!).
The importance of meditation runs heavily throughout this book as do many Shambhala terms and teachings such as that of basic goodness and wakefulness. Bonus points for several geekier and pop-culture based references such as the chapter titled “Wielding Your Speech Like the Hammer of Thor”.
Topics such as deep listening, Bodhisattvic activies, the lojong slogans, the six realms, the paramitas and yes, karma are all explored skilfully and with the goal of showing how they apply in our cubicles.
The thread of hopefulness is woven through this book despite Gen Y’s seemingly dreary job prospects. I’m heartened by Lodro’s optimism. This book is the ideal gift for the Millennial in your life who is going through a career crisis.
Shantideva’s wisdom figures prominently within the pages. How can you go wrong here? I especially love Lodro’s mention of how the workplace “is the perfect battlefield for unleashing your personal weapon: the bomb of bochicitta.” I want the t-shirt now. “Drop bodhichitta bombs. Not F-Bombs.”
While there are a few practices offered within “The Buddha Walks into the Office“, this isn’t the sole focus of the book. There are several exercises for self discovery and details on several meditation-based, contemplations and Buddhist-inspired practices, but the majority of the suggestions relate to actually practicing while at work. He writes, “If you can shift your view so that your work is spirituality, then you can bring your meditation practice off the cushion and live your hours at work with meaning and purpose.”
I REALLY enjoyed Lodro Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into the Office,” but I’m a bit biased in fangirling over all of his writing. It’s authentic, fresh and delivers a fun take on the Dharma which helps it to be accessible to all. Do pick it up. It’s a delightful and fun read with quite a bit of substance to it. If you’re a boss, you need to read it. If you’re an employee, you need to read it. It really does offer new insight into what it means to be a worker and leader. This book could very well make us happier at work and in turn, make the world a much better place.
Yes, the book is that powerful!
It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted one of these random linkage round-ups of things that caught my attention. Said attention has been quite busy and poor little Full Contact Enlightenment gets such little contact.
Well here we go.
- I’m currently reading Lodro Rinzler’s latest book “The Buddha Walks Into the Office” and no joke, it was a big help after what was a very trying week. I’m currently really appreciating how certain books are entering my life at the time when I need them most. Check out this snappy little video for Lodro’s book and do check it out if you are feeling the weight of the work on your shoulders.
- Here’s the story of one man’s year of a digital detox. It’s tempting… very tempting. We’ve all been there right?
- “Off the Cushion”- Danny Fisher’s new podcast has launched. I’m really looking forward to checking it out. Have you heard it yet?
- I’m terribly disappointed to hear that the Buddhist Geeks Conference is going on hiatus, if continuing at all. I always “viewed from afar” via the power of technology (how geeky huh!) and found the conferences to be so nourishing and enriching. Sad emotions here folks.
- The mighty Sumeru Books blog recently posted a link to an interview with Canadian media personality George Stroumboulopoulos. There’s a pronounced Buddhisty-flavour to many of his answers.
- I think I want one of these Spire.io’s. As a “not very mindful desk jockey,” I sure could use one.
- Kayla from It’s Not in the Cards has a great video featuring a few Buddhist and Spirituality books that she recommends. There are quite a few good one’s that made the cut.
The post Random Linkage: Late September Pumpkin Spice Edition appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
Well, at least the first two sections….
As a student and practitioner who is getting ready to dip a toe into ngondro practices (steady there, I still have a little ways to go), this book came at the right time as I study and meditate upon the four common foundation practices (those involving contemplation upon precious human birth, impermanence, karma and our ever-loving dear friend – suffering). As mentioned in a previous post, I underlined a good majority of this book.
Mathieu Ricard provides the foreword, and rightfully so, as he is a student of Yongey Mingur Rinpoche’s (who in turn, is also the heart-son of several of Ricard’s root spiritual masters). He speaks greatly to the importance of these advanced teachings and cites other prominent teachers who have written similar works and focused on these teachings throughout their lives.
Based on a series to talks delivered in 2004 in British Columbia (yay Canada!), “Turning Confusion into Clarity” features many personal stories of his life and those of Yongey Mingur Rinpoche’s father, Tulku Urgen Rinpoche and his brother, Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Other great teachers he studied under and the great masters from before his time such as Tilopa and Naropa are prominent within its pages as well.
Rinpoche shares his heart and speaks to experiences from his spiritual path and his experience of ngondro. Overall, this book is a humorous and joyful glimpse into both his early days as a young monk and as a present-day teacher and author. The personal stories really do make the book one which is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Part One of the book lays the groundwork and is titled “Entering the Path.” It’s an examination of what materials will be covered and speaks greatly to the nature of mind, and its movement from confusion to clarity. The four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma are featured as well as a note on empowerments and transmission. Rinpoche then gives provides and overview of the four practices of the unique ngondro, setting the stage for a more in-depth examination in the chapters to follow.
Meditation is examined fully in “Turning Confusion into Clarity” in that Rinpoche both provides advice on how to do it- both from a physical and mental standpoint. Several meditation and contemplation exercises are offered throughout the book and serve to develop the stability and understanding required for the more advanced practices that a student will encounter on the path.
Part Two gets into the Four Common Foundation Practices and has a chapter dedicated to each: precious human birth, impermanence, karma and suffering. This provides details on the first part of ngondro or the ‘common’ or ‘outer’ ngondro. I found this section of the book to be extremely powerful as Rinpoche’s ability to tell magnificent stories of the joys and pitfalls for Buddhist practice shines through. He is adept at expressing the challenges of Western students and cites many references that resonated personally with me.
This section of the book also gets into topics such as the six realms of samsaric experience, practicing with the eight freedoms, the four restrictive conditions of the human realm and some of the most profound writing I’ve read on impermanence in my, well impermanent life. It’s strangely comforting to hear the stories of Rinpoche’s panic attacks and fear of death given that I too have these issues present in my life. I love this section for what it offered to me.
The chapters on karma and emptiness were also highly informative as oft-misunderstood terms by non-Buddhists and Buddhists alike. To have it distilled in a way that made sense made it an important read, and again, hearing Rinpoche speak to his own confusion of these concepts, only to be told by his teachers that many students get tripped up by it, was heartening.
Part Three is where things get “whoooshbang! Woo hoo. Strap in and put on your flight suit because we’re going on a wild ride. What is that glowing mechanical bull doing here? Zip Zap Wowsa” kind of stuff. These are advanced teachings folks so be forewarned. If you are not into getting to know ngondro, then half of the book isn’t really going to be your cup of tea, at least perhaps at this point on your path.Don’t be afraid though, and go in with an open mind.
Personally, I’m looking forward to this book evolving with me (and me with it) as I move through the practice path. For now, I’m content with reading and becoming aware of these advanced practices, without engaging just yet. “Patience young grasshopper,” I whisper to myself.
Reality check. This book is ‘A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism’ and not meant to substitute the fine wisdom of a teacher’s guidance. I read it knowing that most of what has been described it not yet for my consumption, but rather for reading through for when the time is right. The materials became a bit overwhelming at times, but it was good to have some exposure to these teachings and visualizations. In a nutshell, this section contains several chapters where Rinpoche introduces the various ngondro practices such as refuge, purification mantra and guru yoga.
Back to the mundane reality of writing this book review…
Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend “Turning Confusion into Clarity” for those students who are serious about Tibetan Buddhism and have some semblance of an interest in learning more about the foundational practices. It’s not a book for beginners. Nope.
In my case, the book presented itself at the right time. It’s good to know the general direction of where I’m headed, so “Turning Confusion into Clarity” is a great roadmap for my journey towards ngondro. No doubt, I will be using it is a reference along the way.
It’s one of those ‘Oh look. I highlighted everything’ kind of books. It’s one of those “I know I will be referring to this book often in my life’ kind of books. It’s one of those ‘Hey this book is making me talk to myself because it’s so good’ kind of books.
Really. It’s that good.
In a strange and auspicious coincidence, I’m currently doing work with the Four Foundations and this book came onto my path just at the right time. I’ve always been a big fan of Rinpoche’s writing and his openness about his panic disorder has always endeared me to him.
*fellow panic disorder sufferer- raises hand*
So stay tuned for a blog post on this book shortly. I’m about halfway in folks.
The post Currently reading: ‘Turning Confusion into Clarity’ by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
Take the Buddhists Bowling
WE COULD STOP PUTTING LIDS ON OURSELVES
It is as if we were extraordinary children, possessing all sorts of genius, and we were being undermined by the society around us, which was dying to make us normal people. Whenever we would show any mark of genius, our parents would get embarrassed and try to put the lid on. I don’t particularly want to blame our parents alone; we have also been doing this to ourselves. When we see something extraordinary, we are afraid to say so; we are afraid to express ourselves. So we put lids on ourselves—on our potential, our capabilities. But in Buddhism we are liberated from that kind of conventionality.
The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path by Chögyam Trungpa, page 6
But in Buddhism we are liberated from that kind of conventionality. How I wish this were true. It’s another one of those things Chuggie said that never gets lived out in real life. I’ve been with Buddhists of various kinds, mostly on the East Coast. I knew a few in western Massachusetts, only two personally, and one in Boston. I know about a dozen in Fredericton, NB, and have met hundreds in Halifax. My experience thus far with Buddhists is that they are highly conventional, fearful, repressed, over-controlled and controlling. There is little of the sense of unconventional play and imagination that Chuggie so gleefully describes. Most of the Buddhists I’ve met are quite bourgeois, obsessed with professional success and social status, trying desperately to appear as normal as possible. Those of us who choose not to appear normal, or who couldn’t even if we tried, are treated like errant children or the mentally ill—shunned, chastised, pushed aside. This is a typical problem in many Buddhist communities that I’ve participated in.
But enough complaining. I propose a solution, one that I am trying to enact in small ways. It’s the practice suggested by Dzogchen Ponlop’s Rebel Buddha: see the path of Buddhism as a path of questioning, of challenging convention and the status quo. Very few members of the group who supposedly follow DPR’s legacy, take this challenge seriously. Few of the practitioners I’ve met so far seems to have a fucking clue as to what “rebel Buddha” really means. Or what they think of as “rebel Buddha” and what I think it means are glaciers apart.
So I’ve started to question, question, question everything; push back against conventionality, repression, the obsession with social status, hetero-normativity, white-male dominance, and the intense desire to CONTROL EVERYTHING and everybody. That’s one desire that never seems to be challenged—the desire to CONTROL. We Buddhists are good for tackling desires for pleasures of the flesh, like sex, food, and entertainment, but we utterly fail to even notice the high-octane drive to control, to succeed, to pass (for normal), to achieve, and to be accepted and liked by the mainstream. That’s where Rebel Buddha comes in, not to save the day, but to fuck shit up. Break the barriers of conventionality, repression and control. Talk about sex. Loudly. Be openly, defiantly queer. Go ahead and fail at being a Buddhist. Practice Buddhist tantra in the sangha by performance of the abject—the deliberate violation of social norms as a spiritual practice.
I’ve heard sangha members complain in anguish about the homogeneity of their membership: no young people, no people of colour, no queers, no working class, no immigrants. They always attract more of the same: older (and I mean “near retirement” older); white, anglo, upper-middle class, professional, straights or homonormative gays. Well, I’ve got one of those handy-dandy 12-Step clichés for ya’ll: “Keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll keep getting what you always got.” We have to break down the culture of conformity within sanghas. That sends a message to others who visit your sangha that “difference is accepted and cherished here.” Allow difference to surface and flourish; allow non-conformity, challenge your own status quo, renounce your incessant urge to CONTROL EVERYTHING. Loosen up a little. Let shit happen. Be the “extraordinary children, possessing all sorts of genius” that Chuggie says is our legacy and our birthright from Buddhism.
As DPR has said repeatedly, we have to get away from directing everything toward shrine rooms and retreat centres. That attracts a certain kind of person—straight, white, middle-class conformists—and we have enough of those already. The Buddha “met people where they were at.” He didn’t preach the same message to everyone. He had different teachings for different people depending on what they needed and what their capacities were. Want to attract the working class? Try mindfulness bowling. Want to attract immigrants? Ethnic groups coalesce around their ethnic food (just ask my Italian relatives). Want to attract young people? Go to the next free punk show, stand near the mosh pit and chant along with the band. Want to attract queers? Go to a queer sex workshop and talk about queer tantric practice. Want to attract creative young adults? Go to the next Reclaim the Streets protest and hold an in-the-street meditation session. Meet people where they’re at. Speak their language. Instead of trying to get them to the shrine room, make wherever they’re at “the shrine.”
But first and most importantly, liberate yourselves from conformity. DPR patiently tries to teach people that social conventions are the most rigidly solidified forms of delusion that we suffer from. Every moment that we become aware of and challenge these rigid social norms—of class status, racism, sexism, materialism, and other social conventions—is a moment of awakening. And yet we barely notice them and never challenge them as Buddhists. Blow off your own lid. If you don’t see the need to challenge your own social conventions and free your own mind, you’re never going to liberate anyone else. And you’re never going to have any kind of compassion or solidarity with marginalized people who really do challenge the status quo.
[Note: I’ve been listening to the Beatles’ experiments with psychedelia while writing this, especially George Harrison’s Indian raga.] Oh, and this, “Take the skinheads bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven:
My gosh friends. I’ve been busy… but also not busy.
I started a new job a month ago where pretty much all I do is read, read, read and write, write, write. This is making a limited amount of energy or overall desire for writing here on this stinky old blog. Add to that the book editing process and really quite honestly, I’m thinking about doing a podcast for the next few months until this book is birthed.
So yeah. Busy but not busy. I had a great exchange with my Practice Instructor and she was such a big help. I’m studying the Four Immeasurables right now and while she is a remote instructor, her advice really hit me. Like hit me hard. It was the advice from a spiritual friend that you just absolutely needed to hear at the moment you needed to hear it.
If anyone knocks the validity of a remote teacher or spiritual friend, I say to them – bah my good friend. Bah. I adore my practice instructor (in Seattle) and treasure her as much as if she was right down the street.
Other than that, the trend on this blog has been lately to be posting a wonk-load of book reviews and while I really enjoy it, I’ve realized I’ve overextended myself in trying to read ALL THE DHARMA BOOKS. So less reviews, more personal practice and study and more personal blogging. I want to go back to the kind of posts that likely brought y’all over here in the first place. There are enough book review sites. There aren’t enough struggling to get on the cushion, whiney girl, Gen X-er Buddhist blogs out there. In advertising, we call this the USP- Unique Selling Proposition. It could also be my elevator pitch if you are of the start-up variety.
Other than a new job, great help from my practice instructor, turning down the book reviews and turning up the personal posts… not really much else going on around here.
How about you? What have you been up to?
I’ve missed you.
I have to admit to not being familiar with Lama Marut before coming across his recent book ‘Be Nobody.’ Much like the book ‘The Novice’ by the Naked Monk aka Stephen Schettini, which I reviewed a little while back, it is the story of a ‘religious seeker, finder and then leaver of the cloth’ (monk robes to be specific).
It’s the ideal book for those who define themselves as ‘spiritual, but not religious’ but beware, Lama Marut tackles that very principle of self-definition that we humans are apt to put upon ourselves. The overreaching theme of the book is to ‘undo’ the isms and break free from religious labels as these can only further our feelings of ego identification or separateness from one another.
He takes the wisdom from many different traditions be it Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity and distills it into a book that recommends a new way of being nobody. A way to dismantle the self and be awake. As a ‘religious hybrid’ who studied many traditions both personally as well as academically, Marut is well-versed in both the practices as well as the study which goes with these religions. He uses many stories to help illustrate his message.
‘Be Nobody’ covers a lot of (mainly Buddhist) ground. From the self, no self, interconnectedness, the skandhas (I absolutely adore his mention of the mental afflictions and the metaphor of having a ‘rage in the cage’ style wrestling battle with them), a healthy dose of Shantideva, empathy and guru yoga amongst so many other topics. Believe me, the book gets into it all!
One area of ‘Be Nobody’ where I kind of tuned out was the section on flow states and play and how these work to help us lose our sense of self. I’m not sure why I checked out during this area, but I think it’s just because it’s less of an interest to me than the more ‘dharmic’ materials in the book. I can fully see how it relates to losing one’s sense of self, it just stuck out for me as a section that was tacked on as having some spiritual significance rather than the meaty (and in my opinion more relevant) bits that the rest of the book offered up.
One of the best parts about ‘Be Nobody’ is the pop culture references. I’m a big fan of his use of personal and real-world examples to help support the main principles of the book so any mention of Captain Kirk, song lyrics or movies certainly captures my attention.
Another positive aspect of this book is the ‘Action Plan’ found at the end of each chapter which offers suggestions for how to apply the elements into one’s life. These concrete instructs allow people to put the teachings into practice as a means for transformation. At the end of the book is a set of meditations from the Vijnana Bharvanva Tantra aka ‘Methods for Attaining the Consciousness of the Divine.’ I didn’t go beyond reading these but do plan to revisit them at a later date.
Quite often in ‘Be Nobody,’ Marut speaks to society’s obsession with social media and the correlation it has with the increased levels of depression in our world. He feels that the narcissism that is being demonstrated by living in the ‘iEra’ is something that is quite worrisome.
Overall, ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut was a great read and one I’d recommend to Buddhists, non-Buddhists and those looking to become less Buddhist and more of a nobody. I highlighted a good part of the book and plan to later go back and do some of the meditation practices when I have some time as well as to read the end notes and citations which are chock full of great articles and books.