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Buddhism is a contact sport. I fight with cushions.
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Currently reading: ‘Turning Confusion into Clarity’ by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

September 1, 2014 - 11:08am

I have been enjoying to no end the latest book from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche titled “Turning Confusion into Clarity”.

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: A repost from ENGAGE!

August 29, 2014 - 3:32pm

I asked Shaun Bartone from ENGAGE! if I could re-post a recent post that really resonated with me. Uggh. All of it. Give it a read through and let me know if you feel this way too.

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:

The post Take the Buddhists Bowling: A repost from ENGAGE! appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

I’ve missed you…

August 21, 2014 - 6:47pm

 

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.

The post I’ve missed you… appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Book Review: ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut

August 11, 2014 - 3:17pm

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.

The post Book Review: ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Random Linkage: Wilco, Punk Rock Engaged Buddhists, Being Nobody

August 3, 2014 - 11:02am

Time for a long overdue bit of random linkage. It’s been a while folks. Busy with work and head down with practice and study. I’m also amping myself up for some Montreal Dharma Punx action which I’ve let slip.

  • Lastly, I’ve been doing a bit of reading and practice on the topic of impermanence based on some feedback from my supersmart and uber incisive Practice Instructor. I was watching a Tiny Desk concert with Wilco last night and reminded of the chorus of ‘War on War’. This needs to become my ringtone. (The singalong starts at 14:28)

You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive, okay?

You have to lose
You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive

You have to die
You have to die
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive, okay?

The post Random Linkage: Wilco, Punk Rock Engaged Buddhists, Being Nobody appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Help Open up Against the Stream’s San Francisco Meditation Center.

July 19, 2014 - 8:27am

If you’re like me and love the work of Against the Steam and the affiliated Dharma Punx and their various teachers such as: Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro, Matthew Brensilver, Megan Cowan and ALL of the great folks that have come out of their organization, then how about kicking in a bit of coin to help them build their new center and finally have a home of their own?

They are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build and open a space of their very own in San Francisco. Check out this video for all of the details:

They’re pretty darn close to raising what they need and no amount is too small. This is a great way to support the San Francisco Buddhist community and ensure that the work of Against the Stream moves into a new phase of development and continues to help the Dharma spread and grow.

The post Help Open up Against the Stream’s San Francisco Meditation Center. appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Save Mai Duong

July 15, 2014 - 8:37am

You may be sitting around wondering how you can help a fellow human out. Look no further as I have a suggestion if you are feeling a bit of generosity in your warm little heart.

Here in Montreal, the hustle is on the help find a match for Mai Duong. A 34 year old who was diagnosed with acute leukemia, Mai is in serious need of a stem cell donation from someone in the Vietnamese community. Time is truly of the essence.

I was struck by Mai’s compassion for others as demonstrated in an interview with her where she stated that,

“We could be saving lives. If it’s not my life, it’s going to be somebody else’s.”

“I believe in humanity, so I believe that we’re going to find a match. I’m hopeful.”

Given that visible minorities make up such a small percentage of those who sign up for the bone marrow registry, it’s imperative that the words gets out and that people take action. On a positive note, there’s been 1000 new registrants for the province’s registry in just a few days.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Spread the word. Share the website, mention it on Twitter or Facebook. Mobilize your sangha to register.
  • Join the registry: Quebec, Canada, USA
  • Read up on the story of Emru Townsend who was in a similar situation with regards to the search for a donor. His sister, Tamu and his community worked tirelessly to help educate and spread the word and it was his case that educated me on the subject of requiring ethnic donors due to a lack of diversity in the various registries.

Please act now however you are able to. You could help save a life.

The post Save Mai Duong appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Book Review: Buddha’s Daughters

July 10, 2014 - 12:33pm

Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West offers a wide range of teachings from numerous notable female Western Buddhist teachers such as Pema Chodron, Khandro Rinpoche, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Joanna Macy, Tsultrim Allione, Charlotte Joko Beck among many, many more. This anthology,  edited by Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun is an important and comprehensive collection of stories, instructions and practices on diverse topics such as: birth, old age, sickness, death, anger, love, divorce, health, children, attachment, fear, sex, the environment, psychology, poetry, beginnings, ends and middles – and more. Yes. It’s all in here.

I was struck by Andrea Miller’s introduction which, on the topic of gender and Buddhism deftly points out the following:

… Buddhism like all world religions, has largely been shaped and defined by men. Century after century – right up to the present day – women have been denied teachings and ordinations and have found themselves relegated to monastery kitchens. They’ve been deemed to be of “lower birth,” and in some lineages even the most experienced, aged nun must bow before any monk, even the youngest, least experienced among them. Blocked by such discrimination, women have had limited opportunities to develop into advanced practitioners and teachers. Yet despite the challenges, women have been diligently practiced from the beginning- since the days of the Buddha. I hope this anthology serves as an inspiration for contemporary women practitioners.

One of the best aspects of compilations such as this one is that they pull from various traditions and allow readers to discover teachings and wisdom from spiritual paths outside of one’s own. With teachings from a multitude of flavours of Buddhism comes the ability to open up one’s perspective and to see wisdom in places one may not initially look for them in. Through this book, I was able to discover many practices, teachings, pieces of poetry and philosophies that I wasn’t previously aware of. I love it when a book allows me to go down the rabbit hole of discovering new things to read and helps me to create list of things to check out. One example of this is my discovery of Buddhist nun and poet Rengetsu who I am now absolutely fascinated with and will be adding to my ‘must find out more about her’ list.

One of my favourite chapters was that of Tenzin Palmo who writes clearly and powerfully on the topic of Vajrayana. She delivers a glimpse into this yana without ‘giving away too many secrets’ and does so in a way that is both magical and real-world. It is truly a rewarding read and should be required for practitioners regardless of their time or location on the path.

But in Vajrayana, there are so many practices. Ther is vipassana, there is Zen-like meditation, there is study, there is the whole panoply of Technicolor Vajrayana visualizations with buddhas and bodhisattvas in every possible color combination. There is something for everybody- peaceful, angry, sort of peaceful, and sort of angry, standing up, sitting down, lying down, any way you want.

Buddha’s Daughters offers the best of spiritual guidance as well as just ‘plain old’ life advice. It is an important contribution to the  collection of books featuring female voices and is a highly worthy addition to any bookshelf. These stories of powerful women from the past and present will hopefully inspire future great female teachers.

The post Book Review: Buddha’s Daughters appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Sakyadhita is seeking contributors so get involved!

July 3, 2014 - 2:25pm

Sakyadhita, the International Association of Buddhist Women is currently seeking contributions for  The Awakening Buddhist Women Blog. 

They are looking for stories, articles, interviews, or photo essays related to women and Buddhism and if you are interested in submitting a guest post relating to women and Buddhism please visit their website for more details.

While you’re there, do check out their impressive blogroll of Buddhaladyblogs. What a great collection!

The post Sakyadhita is seeking contributors so get involved! appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Random Linkage: Full Contact Enlightenment

June 29, 2014 - 8:09am

It’s time for some Random Linkage. Here are some of the things that have crossed my radar as being noteworthy, interesting and worth sharing with you, dear readers.

  • Both Danny Fisher and Justin Whitaker posted the link to this petition created for the United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV) to allow Ajahn Brahm’s gender equality paper in 2015. Please sign it if you are so inclined to do so. Also watch this video for more details as Ajahn Brahm recounts the story behind this event.

On the [Western, convert] Buddhist happiness industry front we then get smarmy books about how to be a happy worker by adjusting ourselves to our oppressive conditions rather than overthrowing the bosses or making a stand for better working conditions or something else that would disrupt the status quo. The happiness industry is all about preserving that status quo. It’s not about “liberation” or anything else of that sort. It’s about being a better drone.

  • Buddhism Secrets of Cats. Nothing more to add although I should really write a “Rebuttal from a Pug Butt” post given that I live with two furry Buddhas.
  • And a little photo humour for the geeks…

 

 

 

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Engage! – A new blog about Engaged Buddhism

June 26, 2014 - 1:07pm

There’s a new Buddhablog out there for those who are particularly interested in Engaged Buddhism (for more details on this term check out this link from Joanna Macy’s website).

Engage! is edited by Shaun Bartone who you may remember from this piece titled “‘Conduct Unbecoming: a Trans*Queer Experience of Dharma’ which was featured earlier here on Full Contact Enlightenment. In Shaun’s words,

This blog is the beginning of what I hope will be a multi-media hub that publishes articles by major and lesser-known authors who are on the cutting edge of engaged Buddhism: anarchists, anti-racists, art activists, animal rights activists, climate justice and environmental activists, culture jammers, decriminalizers, disability advocates, feminists, free Palestiners, greens, immigrant rights, indigenous rights (INM), occupiers, peace activists, poets, prison abolitionists, psyche righters, queer culturists, sex positivists, union organizers, social justice and human rights advocates. I especially welcome articles that examine the systemic causes of individual and collective suffering, systems of ideology and power that shape the issues we face today, and how buddhadharma addresses those issues.

Shaun is also delivering a focus on content from the East Coast of Canada which is an area that, while there are many Buddhists, you don’t really hear much by way of independent media such as blogs, videocasts or podcasts.

I’m particularly enjoying the following posts

There is such great content coming from Engage! and I would encourage you to subscribe or add it to your RSS. Shaun is also seeking contributors, so if you are so inclined, please do get in touch and submit your voice to this essential blog.

 

 

 

The post Engage! – A new blog about Engaged Buddhism appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Books! Books! Books!

June 22, 2014 - 11:11am

This is just a little glimpse of the books I currently have fired up on my reader for this summer. Well. What do we have here?

  • Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teachings on Voidness by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu – Oh I love books on emptiness (shunyata) because I am so confounded by it. It’s one of those concepts in Buddhism that is so sticky that the more I read about it, the better it is for my foggy little perceptual mind to grasp it. As an aside, if you watch or have watched this documentary on Buddhadasa Bhikku- let me know if it’s any good).
  • Meditation on Perception: The Healing Practices by Bhante Gunaratana – As a meditation teacher, I devour any books that relate to insight meditation, perception and this book looks stellar in it’s treatment of the subject matter. Looking forward to it.
  • Turning Confusion into Clarity by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche – I’m a HUGE fangirl of Rinpoche, so this is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Since his previous books, The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom subsequently going into retreat after their release, I’m thrilled to see this one hit my shelp and Rinpoche’s teachings continue to propagate. With a title like this, I feel like I need to start reading this one ASAP!
  • Sit With Less Pain : Gentle Yoga for Meditators by Jean Erlbaum – I NEED TO READ THIS NOW! RIGHT NOW! As I sit here, hunched like a troll over my keyboard (quite common as I work as a desk jockey) and have several pre-existing gnarly injuries such as a busted up ankle and miserable, popping knees, I know that sitting meditation can seriously do a number on a person. Who’d think that simply sitting posture would be so arduous, but take it from me – IT SURE CAN BE. Mega bonus points for the author’s profile photo featuring a dog and mention in her bio of owning 2 dogs.

  • Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West edited by Andrea Miller- I’ve started reading this book and it is as wonderful as I imagined it to be. With a list of heavy hitters from the feminine Buddhist world, this book is packed full of wisdom and great teachings from oh let’s see who’s listed here: Pema Chodron, Ayya Khema, Sharon Salzberg, Toni Packer, Maurine Stuart, Karen Maezen Miller, Khandro Rinpoche, Jan Chozen Bays, Sister Chan Khong, Sylvia Boorstein, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Darlene Cohen, Joanna Macy, Bonnie Myotai Treace, Tsultrim Allione, Tenzin Palmo, Tara Brach, Joan Sutherland, Carolyn Rose Gimian, Joan Halifax, and Charlotte Joko Beck. Yup. I’m really excited to read this one.

There you have it. A quick list of a few books I’m set to read this summer. Stay tuned as there are many more not on this list that will squeak in with mentions on Full Contact Enlightenment. That new Noah Levine book, the new book by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche… and… and… and…

The post Books! Books! Books! appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Full Contact Facebook Enlightenment

June 21, 2014 - 5:55am

Can’t get enough of me on this blog? Filled with an insatiable desire and craving to connect with me? Non-stop suffering and samsara in feeling like you need to see more cat videos in your life and you are indeed missing out?

Let’s connect on Facebook.

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Helping Hands: An anthology of writing by Canadian Buddhist women

June 19, 2014 - 1:04pm

If you were to tell the little version of me that someday I’d work on putting a book together, I would have likely kicked you in the shin and then run off to bury my nose into a Laura Ingalls Wilder or Judy Blume book to hopefully erase the memory of our horrid exchange.

Fast forward to today and I have the incredibly good fortune to curate a book which will be released Spring of next year.

I’m working with an exceptional publisher who has been a dream to collaborate with.

I am re-connecting with friends in the Buddhablogosphere and meeting some amazing women who are all, well… lending a helping hand in contributing to this anthology.

I am supported by some incredible individuals who are always full of ideas and suggestions and who have helped to spread the word. For this, I have to give thanks to: Sakyadhita Canada, D.I.Y. Dharma Sangha, Derek from Derek’s Dharma Blog, Arun- The Angry Asian Buddhist and Suwanda H J Sugunasiri.

I am still seeking a few more contributors so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you are interested or have any questions. Please do spread the word in your networks as well.

The post Helping Hands: An anthology of writing by Canadian Buddhist women appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.

Random Linkage

June 16, 2014 - 10:35am
  • I love when the Buddha friends me on social media.

  • Can Compassion, Altruism, and Selflessness Really Exist? (Perhaps the author of this post might be onto something for those non-Buddhists who need a kickstart into compassion and altruism as he states – “So in my book, altruism in the service of narcissism is good enough for me. How about you?”)
  • Relax kitty. Relax
  • Montreal lost a great religious scholar this past week. I have to share a blog post by one of her student’s as it is such a lovely tribute.

If Socrates is right—if true philosophers are always preparing to die—then the highest compliment I can pay to Ellen is that she was a true philosopher. This is true because of the graceful way in which lived and the graceful way in which she faced a vicious illness, but above all it is true because of the graceful way in which she prepared others for her death. I know, too, that Ellen would appreciate the fact that the role of Socrates is taken over by a woman, Macrina the Younger, in the Orthodox Christian tradition. Gregory of Nyssa calls Macrina Teacher—??????????—for her fortitude in the face of death. It seems fitting, then, to dedicate Macrina’s words to my Teacher, whom I pray is free from all pain and suffering in the God who is Love:

 

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Dana.io: Inspired Crowdfunding

June 13, 2014 - 2:04pm

I’m a super-big fan of crowdfunding and have backed many projects close to my heart on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Everything from films (my personal weakness), graphic novels, video games and more has first piqued my interest and then gained my support for its production. Honestly I can’t think of a better way to ensure that the products that I believe in and want to see in the world become a reality.

So imagine my joy when I received news about dana.io, the world’s first fee-free crowdfunding platform for authors, artists and activists. Sign me up!

We are a group of ?mindful creatives who have ?come together to develop a crowdfunding ?platform designed to support collaborative artistry and activism - our ?fellow revolutionaries changing global consciousness. Our name, dana?.io is a concept from ancient India at the time of the Buddha and is understood as the inspired support of generously sustaining a vision based on its value to society. Born from a love of service, dana is the practice of using one’s own freedom to support the freedom of others.

The founder and director of dana.io is Alan Clements – a rather interesting and inspiring fellow I must say. Some quick stats on Alan:

  • Former Buddhist monk in Burma (one of the first Westerners to ordain)
  • Former investigative journalist
  • Former Director of Amnesty International
  • Co-founded the World Dharma Online Institute
  • Performer
  • Speaker
  • Author of many books

I could go on and on, but I’d encourage you to check out his bio for all of the full details. It’s well worth the read and will certainly convince you that this is the man with the team to make things happen with this exciting project.

Dana.io have launched with several interesting projects currently in the active crowdfunding stage including a 10-year anniversary outreach project from the makers of The Corporation to gift a license to 1000 schools and a  transmedia production titled Out of History, by Harry Sutherland. Additional campaigns set to launch include: a legal fund for whistle blowers at a nuclear facility; a campaign for a GMO free world; a group of monastics at Thich Nhat Hahn’s monastery in France going on a peace building program to Liberia to lead mindfulness retreats for former child soldiers; a global yoga outreach initiative supporting selfless services for at-risk youth; and a book seeking the end of sexual violence towards women in war zones by Marcia Jacobs, a former representative of the International War Crimes Tribunal.

Dana.io themselves are currently running a CrowdGifting Campaign in which all visitors to the site are offered a free digital download of Alan Clements’ latest book ‘A Future To Believe In: 108 Reflections on the Art and Activism of Freedom,’ which has received kudos from Bill McKibben and Buddhist scholar and activist Joanna Macy among others.

If you have an idea for a project that may be a fit for dana.io, don’t hesitate to contact them as they are seeking projects relating to activism, art, causes, design, dance, environment, health, publishing, video and so much more.

It’s so wonderful to see another player in the crowdfunding space and one which has such awesome values and spirit behind it.

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My hometown- Moncton

June 11, 2014 - 5:51pm

I was born in Moncton. A quiet little spot near that kicky little hooked bit on the East Coast of Canada. Not much goes on here.

The City Hall features a collection of metal deer, one of which burnt my arse during the taking of this photo when I leaned on its baking hot frame. This was likely the most that went on in Moncton this day. Woman burns arse standing too close to hot metal deer.

I moved away many years ago for the ‘big city life’ but I get so very nostalgic for ‘back home’. I have a folder of cottages I want to stay at, snapshots of greasy crustaceans I want my husband to push down his gullet and a head full of spots that I want to visit which remind me of the good times I had as a kid. The beaches. The parks. The drive in. A simple swing set from a playground at my old elementary school. I toy with the idea of surfing in this but fear dysentry, hot deer fever, malaria and contact dermatitis.

When I meet fellow ‘Maritimers’, I

A). Squee in a high pitched voice much like what this metal deers babyfolk would do after emerging out of the womb

B). High five the person. They’re not a stranger.

C). Hug the person. They’re not a stranger.

D). Ask them who they know/ who they are related to and realize that 6 degrees of separation is actually 3 in a Maritimer’s life

On June 4, 2014, things changed for Moncton. A gunman shot five Mounties, wounding two and killing three (Constable Dave Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Quebec, Constable Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, from Boulogne-Billancourt, France and Constable Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John, New Brunswick). A manhunt was on to find the gunman and friends and family were trapped in their homes while the RCMP tried to locate him. Fear gripped the city and when he did emerge from the woods and surrendered after almost two days, that fear turned to absolute and complete sadness.

The community’s heart was broken and stories of compassion started to emerge. Lineups of citizens stood in the streets hugging and kissing RCMP officers. Many bought them Tim Horton’s coffee (aka liquid gold in Moncton) or dinners and a makeshift shrine was set up at RCMP headquarters. I was struck by the number of parents who brought their children to drop off flowers, artwork and other mementos to the shrine as it was so mature to bring children into this process. The community near the area where the tragedy happened and which was on lockdown organized a bike ride for the kids so they could show their support for the RCMP. People were grieving openly and doing so as a community.

It’s how I imagined my hometown would be. Nobody organized protests against the gunman. Few took to the airwaves to call for his execution (if they did, it was kept on a Facebook forum of crackpots). They supported one another. They held each other up. They wept. They hugged. They offered up their homes to those service men and women who attended the public funeral and the list of volunteers that were willing to billet visitors far exceeded the need. (It’s worth saying that the number of those service personnel who came to the city for the funeral represented 10% of the population of Moncton).

Moncton. You are beautiful to me. You are compassionate. Unafraid of displaying your broken heart. You are taking care of each other.

May you heal swiftly.

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Book Review: ‘Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges’ – Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara

June 7, 2014 - 9:30am

There’s a strange trend going on in these parts in that I’m reading quite a few more Zen books than usual. It’s a good trend and a good strange. Some of my spiritual friends have offered up some disdain for the practice of ‘reading outside of one’s tradition’ but I honestly find these last few books (I’m looking at you, you wonderful Tibetan/Zen book) I’ve read to be spot on with regards to defining ‘the human condition’ and how to work skillfully within it. While the title cites ‘A Zen Approach’ – it could also be read as ‘a realistic and pragmatic approach’ to life’s challenges. In my humble opinion, wisdom is wisdom regardless of the colour robes it wears.

This is the first book I have read by Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and I am now a converted fan. She speaks to me in that no-bullshit way that Pema Chödrön‘s writing does. To the point. Visceral. Cut out the crying. The poor me. Build resilience and acceptance. There is no way to escape it.This book delivers all of this medicine and more. Given that the central theme is facing life’s challenges, Roshi doesn’t shy away from anything within this book. From sex to anger, work, death and joy – nothing is sugar-coated and nothing is discarded.

Of course there’s shit; shit is a part of life. It is what is left over from our actions, smelling of all of the aspects of life. If there weren’t shit, we wouldn’t appreciate the jewel….. true joy is not possible in a world without suffering. The suffering (the shit) enriches us, gives us wisdom and compassion. The jewel is this joy of life itself.

When we are willing to be intimate with what actually is here now, to look directly at all of our experience we might recognized that this is our life, however different from our thoughts and ideas about it. It is as if we hunker down and actually get very real, recognizing that our thoughts of gaining and losing, good and bad, happy and sad, are what distance us from ourselves.

The book begins with the story of how she came to discover Zen practice and what it has cultivated within her in working with both obstacles and joys within her life. The format of the book is that each chapter is followed by a series of exercises that can be done either alone or in a group and then a series of Q&A’s from events she has participated in.

One of my favourite (and in my opinion) the most valuable chapters of the book is the one on the topic of sex.  Often I find that those Buddhist writers and teachers who do decide to wade into the murky depths of this topic, do so with the best intentions, but only confuse or obfuscate matters related to sexuality such as what exactly is ‘the misuse of sex’.

When sex is an automatic reaction, we become like puppets on sticks rather than two beings meeting each other with honesty. Compassion grows out of that honesty, and out of compassion comes wisdom. Whatever happens- rejection, blunders, interruptions, loss, all of life’s surprises- we’ll find that we are strong enough to face it.

Another chapter which was impressive was titled ‘Living in the Suffering World’. Yup. It gets overwhelming and Roshi O’Hara has provided such wisdom for the burned out and tired Bodhisattvas (and Bodhisattvas-to-be). Her suggestions and perspective within this specific chapter is required reading for all who begin to feel the pain of how hard it can be to be both living with our own suffering as well as within a world of countless suffering beings.

Interconnectedness, selflessness, the present moment, acceptance. It’s all in her and each chapter references how we can work with both the joys and difficulties of our lives. Work. Sex. Death. Health. Anger. It’s all in here. It’s all in the book. It’s all a part of our lives.

Nothing is left out. A Zen approach recognizes all the aspects of life.

Roshi O’Hara takes it all on and offers suggestions for how to make things more workable. With her vivid descriptions of emotions and emotional states, she offers up a reassurance that we are indeed normal in our perceived neuroses and it’s not that we can become overcome with these situations, it’s that we can move beyond them. None of us are immune. Human psychology and behaviour is central in this book.

Overall, I highly recommend ‘Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges’ by Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and put it up beside those books that I will turn to when I need a dose of real-world wisdom and kick in the pants inspiration.

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Random Linkage: Behind Skeletor, Life Release,Thich Nhat Hanh & more Nat

May 31, 2014 - 6:19am

Hey there.

How you doing? All good?

Despite my best efforts and good intentions, I am writing here less frequently. Also, despite my best efforts and good intentions, I have fallen behind with the online French class that I’m currently enrolled in. Annnnnnd, despite my best efforts and good intentions, I have fallen behind with reading a zillion great new books and posting reviews/comments on them over here at the old blog.

So I will try to buy time with some gold ol’ Random Linkage to give you fine eminations something to read.

Perhaps, then, our spiritual practice is the discipline of real humour. Through meditation and other spiritual practices we have an opportunity to become aware of that essential freedom from conditioning, and, of course, we will also see the humour in our failure to realize and sustain that freedom in our daily lives!

  • Here’s a video of Thich Nhat Hanh answering the essential question “How can I fight the injustices of this world without being consumed with anger, bitterness, outrage and resentment?”
  • Read all of this blog post. Read all of this blog. All of it. Every last single post.

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Gandhi by MONK.E

May 22, 2014 - 5:35am

Visit MONK.E’s Facebook page for more details on his work.

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