Full Contact Enlightenment
Things are heating up for Montreal-based Buddhists these days. Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, there are events and activities set to spring upon us.
- Joseph Goldstein will be in Montreal for True North Insight’s 10th anniversary and offering a talk meditation workshop on Saturday, March 15 from 10 am-4 pm (Space for the talk on Friday has been filled). To register online click here. Do check out the True North Insight website as they have a few video teaching available and there are additional events and retreats coming up.
- Gisele Laberge of the Montreal Shambhala Centre will be facilitating a One Year to Live program again. Don’t miss this as I found it to be such a rewarding and enriching program when I completed it several years ago.
- From what I’m seeing, it looks like we can look forward to Khandro Rinpoche in Montreal on the 9th and 10th of August. Oh the warmth. I feel it already.
- Now I need to give a shout out for Montreal Dharma Punx. I need some inspiration. I need some conversation. I need some motivation. I need a LOCATION. If you are interested in sitting and have an idea of where we can meet, drop me a line either via email or our Facebook page.
Indie Spiritualist is the first book from Chris Grosso, a multi-faith, multi-disciplinary chap who runs a website of the same name. I say multi-faith in that much of Chris’ belief system has been formed by many different religious and spiritual traditions as he has taken the approach of seeing what fits or doesn’t fit for him. I say mult-disciplinary in that Chris can be described in many ways – musician, writer, tattooed dude, skateboarder, recovering addict, super-fan of all kinds of musical styles, husband, father, brother … and on and on. The guy is diverse. These interests all form the crux of the book which is a compilation of short stories relating his journey both as a recovering addict, as well as someone who has worked with intense suffering only to then embark on a path of self-inquiry and spiritual inquisitiveness to discover a more meaningful life.
The book recounts Chris’ journey – all of the pain, suffering, low times and serious issues with addiction. His journey was a cycle of detention, detox, rehab, release, suffering and repeat on a path littered with some scary, dark places. He hit rock bottom and yet was able to discover and tap into the wisdom to know that a new way was necessary in order for his survival.
Don’t be fooled. ‘Indie Spritualist’ isn’t all doom and gloom though. There is a brightness and a humour within the pages which comes from Chris’ personality and his unique and somewhat self-effacing voice. He is a humble fellow and conveys his personal joys with the same attention to detail and integrity as those of his lowest and most embarrassing experiences. It is an unflinching look at both the beauty and the grotesque and is a brave work in this respect.
The book speaks to those who aren’t really into the new-agey approach which made it right up my alley. It is an accessible spiritual book for both youth and those who are young at heart. Be warned, there’s quite a bit of reference made to bands, authors and films and not to suggest that this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s truly going to resonate for those who are familiar with alternative culture in some way. If you don’t know who Slayer, Jason Voorhees, Bukowski or 108 are, you might not be quick on the uptake for getting a few of the references.
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is about recovery. self inquiry and how to live an authentic life. Chris’ approach is to encourage readers to find their own path and roll their own spirituality, rather than adopt something that doesn’t speak to them. No bullshit. No dogma. He shares many of the teachings that resonate with him as well as recounts experiences and mentors that helped him on his spiritual path.
Of all of the chapters, the one where he speaks to his heart connection with Ram Dass is the one that stands out to me as the most profound and where Chris’ connection with a spiritual teacher shines through. I would have enjoyed a larger section of the book being devoted to the teachers and books that influenced Chris in one area rather than appearing in unrelated short stories, but that’s just me and my anal-retentive style manifesting itself. Also, as a Buddhist, I would have liked to have seen a dictionary of terms given that there was a bit of lingo that was outside of my personal framework. Perhaps the intention is to inspire the reader to go and do some spiritual seeking and research, but for those who are already dedicated to a particular tradition, it would have been useful to have some of these definitions available. Again, that may be my anal-retentitiveness speaking as well as a bit of laziness (we all have our weaknesses right?).
An interesting feature of the book is the inclusion of links to Chris’ original music, several You Tube clips and a great list of suggestions on books, movies, music and practices that he’s into. I really liked this multi-media approach and found that it added much to the experience and helped to discover more about Chris Grosso – both past and present. (This aspect of the book negates my previous mention of wanting a glossary of spiritual terms as the multi-media bits really spoke to a universal language).
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is an important addition to the modern-day spiritual bookshelf in that it provides a glimpse into the journey of someone who isn’t just practicing from one spiritual tradition, such as Noah Levine and Brad Warner (fellow Buddhists), but the journey of Chris Grosso, who is unabashedly a multi-faith practitioner sampling and cultivating wisdom from many spiritual traditions. It’s not preachy, but rather demonstrates how he has found his own path and he encourages readers to try the same approach for themselves. He has a warmth and a passion for sharing his story and this comes through within Indie Spiritualist. His goal of helping individuals accept and love themselves as well as to break free from suffering is essential in our world and I’d encourage you to either read the book or gift it to someone who is currently seeking a new way of breaking free from addiction, despair or of embarking on their own path of self-discovery.
So much of his story resonated with my personal journey and just as Chris mentions in the book how much he enjoys meeting and hearing about those spiritual practitioners who may not fit the mold of the ‘peace, love, long-haired hippy spiritual practitioners’ but rather are into loud music, black band t shirts and skateboarding, I felt the same kinship in reading his book. Chris is very humble and self-effacing but he should be very proud of this book. I look forward to reading more from him both on his website and hopefully in future books.
*Also, I had no idea that Krishna Das was in Blue Oyster Cult. I have to thank this book for this illuminating fact!
I’m currently reading Chris Grosso’s book “Indie Spiritualist” and very much liking what I’m reading so far. Over lunch today I watched this interview by Elephant Journal’s founder Waylon Lewis and think you might enjoy it as well.
They cover Chris’ upcoming book, overcoming his past struggles with addiction which form the basis of his book, a few suggested resources to help with recovery, several books and authors that he’s into and touch upon how awesome it would be to read ‘The Tibetan Book of the Living Dead’. Oh my. I’d buy that graphic novel
The post Interview: Waylon Lewis speaks with Chris Grosso (author of “Indie Spiritualist”) appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the web these days both for my 9-5 as well as in helping my sangha update our website. That hasn’t stopped me from some things crossing my path in the online realm so here’s a few things I wanted to share.
- This post titled ‘Violence, Blood, Broken Bones and Other Joys of Meditation’ over at the Indie Spiritualist puts it out there. PS- I’m on Chapter 5 of his new book and it’s super good.
- Tashi Mannox, an artist that I hoot on and on about on this blog will be in North America delivering a workshop and a presentation at the Rubin so if you can, do check him out. Here’s a short film on his work:
- Mondo Samu is starting a group with the incredibly smart acronym of M.E.A.L.S. – Mindful Eating and Living Sangha which will be a year-long book club that will:
- Recite the Five Reflections
- Share a Mindful Eating Experience
- Read and discuss the book Savor, by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Practice Mindful Movement
Mondu states that:
My hope is that this year-long grassroots-group exploration will deepen my own practice further, help others establish mindfulness as a way of healthy living, and – hopefully – encourage them to go out and spread the practice through starting similar groups the following year, and so on. If successful, it could see a viral growth since those who complete the year, may hopefully create groups of their own and repeat the process, again and again.
If you are so inclined, do get in touch with him. He’s doing great work with online Buddhist communities and this should be an interested exploration.
- I feel this way about my dogs… Just had to share it.
It’s been a while since I’ve spoken about anything other than random links, cartoons or books that I’ve had my nose buried in. Let’s see… What’s been going on?
Practice is spotty. At best. I have a list of readings and practices to get cracking on, but I’m not sure where my mojo went off to. Winter blahs? Driven to distraction by mass distraction? Aches? Pains? You name it. I have it.
I’m trying not to let it get to me. I’ve seen this funk before. I’ve come out of it. I’ve slipped into it. Rinse. Repeat. It’s part of my practice to not practice and then pick up again. My hair is on fire but I’m just feeling a little warm behind the ears while I wait for my head to be engulfed.
How about you? How’s your practice? How are you feeling?
I don’t even know where to begin with writing about this book because it is ALL CAPS REMARKABLE!!!
Seriously. I have been hooting on about this book for the longest time and pretty much everyone who I speak with gets an earful from me fangirling on and on about its simple brilliance. I’m currently engaging in Lojong practice, so it arrived on my Kindle at a very auspicious time and pushed its way past the recommended books from the list of those on the suggested reading list.
A bit of background for this review and for those who judge books by their covers. No. That isn’t a misprint and it does read as ‘Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong’. Norman Fischer is a Zen priest with a background in interfaith study, teaching, practice and writing, having previously released a book titled Opening To You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms. The final paragraphs in this book alone featured some of the most powerful thoughts on religion and faith that I’ve read, but more on that later.
Now about Lojong, It’s a mind training practice in the Tibetan Buddhism tradition. No. It’s not anything spooky, despite the words ‘mind training practice’ which sound a bit like the domain of the CIA or something you’d see in an episode of The X Files. Lojong is a practice in which one studies and reflects on 59 slogans as a means to lead oneself towards compassion. Pema explains it a bit more eloquently than I do over here.
Fischer begins the book with details on how the slogans are similar to Zen koans which is a quite interesting way to view how these two traditions have much overlap. As with similar books on Lojong such as my perennial favourite, ‘Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness’ by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Fischer views his contribution as having written a ‘training manual’ and in essence, this book provides a real world approach in suggesting how the slogans can be used in a way that fit into everyday life. Written in a casual tone, Fischer’s voice is friendly, instructive and overall is like hanging out with a funny and engaging spiritual friend. Again, I’m a big fan of his now and discovering him better late than never.
While the tone of the book is friendly and not too hardcore in it’s commentary on the subject matter (read this as it’s not requiring a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy), it does offer up one of the clearest descriptions of absolute and relative bodhichitta that I’ve encountered. Given that the distinction between these two truths can get a bit sticky for some, I appreciate the author’s clear presentation of this oft misunderstood aspect of Buddhism. That is the beauty of the author’s approach in that he helps to make complex topics a bit less blurry.
Fischer is very perceptive about human nature and our motivations and delivers matter-of-fact teachings on the human condition. He deftly weaves teachings and quotes from Zen and Tibetan masters along with his own personal perspectives within the book in a way which contributes an exciting blend of past and modern approaches and insights on the Dharma.
This book is unique in that it is a Zen priest’s commentator on an Indo-Buddhist text and a new flavour of Buddhism added to the mix. While wearing different coloured robes and with a background in Zen, the author is able to convey the key points of compassion which Lojong aims to inspire in those who encounter it. The book is gentle, humorous and feels like meeting a friendly guide on the path. As my first introduction to the work of Norman Fischer, I am now finding myself wanting to experiment with his interfaith perspective as a means to explore my spiritual side a bit further as it relates to a different school entirely. Zenbetan? Tibzen? Who knows?
What is known is that this is certainly now one of my go-to Dharma books and I’ll continue to recommend it highly to everyone who’s willing to listen to me!
The post Between the Pages: ‘Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong’ appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
Like the groundhog, I’m poking my head out of my burrow and jumping back inside but not before I share with you a few links and such that have been on my radar.
- Brad Warner’s recent post on the passing of his teacher really resonated with me. I think it’s one of the best things he’s written and dear reader, I know you know I fangirl over most of his writing.
Whenever I talked to him he was right there with me in a way that no one else has ever been. People sometimes complained when they asked questions that he wouldn’t answer their questions but instead talk about something else. I used to think so too until I started paying closer attention. That’s when I noticed that he always answered the questions people asked. It’s just that the questioners often, like me, had no idea what they were really asking.
- I can’t have a post on punk rock Buddhists without a soupçon of Noah Levine.
- Miguel Chen, who I interviewed a little while back here on FCE has started blogging and I am beyond stoked! After following his posts on Facebook in which he often drops some of his thoughts on Buddhism, sex, life, death and everything in between, it’s great to see Miguel sharing his experiences as a punk rock Buddhist. He also is very open about being into BDSM, which may seem contrary what you’d expect of the traditional perception of Buddhists being lovey-touchey-feeley-tender-gentle kinfolk. In all honesty, after reading his recent post titled “A Year to Live and My Dominatrix“, I am seriously thinking about swapping my meditation instructor for a dominatrix.
When my Dominatrix started the training, I quickly began to notice some very positive changes. Suddenly exercise was fun and eating right was easier than ever before. The chores (she has me cleaning my house thoroughly) and assignments are tough sometimes, but I always feel a strong sense of accomplishment when they’re done. Now more than ever I feel like if I were to die I could feel good about how I’ve been treating my body. Of course it helps that I love BDSM and Dominatrices in general, so this angle won’t necessarily work for everybody… BUT my point is there are ways to make taking care of ourselves fun. And when we take care of ourselves physically and mentally we can feel good about how we are living our lives. When we feel honestly good about how we live, then there’s not really a lot to fear in death. So I guess in a roundabout way, the best way to deal with death is to live with an open heart and to try our best. So whatever you need to do, whether it’s reading a book, going to church or having a Dominatrix motivate you, try your best my friends. Find what works for you and fucking try, because you never know when it might all be over. May we all take care of each other and try our honest best.
- I adore Pablo Das. Just adore him.
I wanted to share this illustration from Kate Leth (who is awesome BTW).
Recently I was in this similar situation in the Buddhasphere and I’ve seen it in the video games circles that I frequent as well. Heck. It’s in all of the circles that I frequent. It’s tiring. It’s horrible. It’s not acceptable.
We can be better.
- Good news Toronto! You’ll be hosting an event Robert Thurman as well as a four day teaching series by Venerable Robina Courtin for teachings on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Lucky ducks!
- Good news Montreal. Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is returning to us in August.
- Thinking of Winston- As someone who is owned by two glorious dogs, I know and fully admit that I’m attached to my little fur wizards. This post haunted me.
- Are you a fan of watching gigs from the comfort of your own home? Well you might enjoy this StageIt benefit show featuring Chuck Ragan and Matt Skiba (among others).
This is a live show happening at Thee Parkside in San Francisco that is going to be live broadcast on Stage It. All proceeds of this concert will benefit Miraloma Elementary School’s aspiring musicians by providing them with opportunities to team with the Blue Bear School of Music teachers in exploring and learning rock, blues, jazz, folk or pop instruments. The goal of this program is to afford all interested students access to instruments and instruction which aren’t traditionally taught in elementary schools, providing them with the time and space to rock to their hearts’ content.
The post Random Linkage: Toronto, Montreal, Winston and Rock out with your Chalk out appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
Often late to the party, I think I started reading my favourite book of 2013 in the final days of the year. ‘Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong’ by Norman Fischer is quite frankly the book on Lojong that I’ve always been looking for and comes coincidentally at a time when this is the very set of practices that I’m undertaking as part of the Nalandabodhi Path of Meditation program.
It’s funny because when I mentioned this book a week or so ago in a post, Jomon from Nothing to Attain in a comment mentioned that they were ‘like a televangelist about this book for a while’ and I’m pretty much feeling the same way. Nathalie (who’s blog I adore) mentioned that a quote from the book that I posted really resonated with her and that she sent it on to three other friends, and I’ve been reading passages aloud to my atheist husband after making a ‘Whoosh. Pow! Oh my” sound after reading a particular piece from the book.
It’s really that good friends. It is.
Stay tuned for a review of sorts. I’m 3/4 of the way through reading the book – barring me running off to become a Zen practitioner.
It’s all Dharma.
I’m going to save you, dear reader of the arduous task of reading a long post recapping my 2013.
Let’s just say it was a year, much like the photo above is indicating that simple truth right now is that it is currently freezing as frack and the weather is simply just… weather.
It was a year.
A bit more gentle and a bit more under the radar than other years. Many days were just days. No big Instagram or Facebook ‘Year in Sepia-toned photos’ or ‘Year in Status Updates’ for you.
Trust me. It was a year.
I meant to read this one specific book in 2013. I was really jazzed to get into it but many other books pushed it to the bottom of the virtual pile on my Kindle. The last few days of 2013, I started to read it and now, on the first day of 2014 with the hoopla over resolutions, setting intentions and the yearly rituals many of us start to scrawl out into our new journals, I have to share with you the most relevant passage that resonated with me and I will pull out whenever I feel like berating myself over my practice.
The sixth slogan is: Whatever you meet is the path… whatever happens, good or bad, make it part of your spiritual practice. In spiritual practice, which is our life, there are no breaks and no mistakes. We human beings are always doing spiritual practice, whether we know it or not. You may think that you lost the thread of your practice, that you had been going along quite well and then life got busy and complicated and you lost track of what you were doing. You may have been embarrassed about this, felt bad about it, and that feeling fed on itself, and it became harder and harder to get back on track. And you think you are very far from your best intentions. But this is just what you think, it’s not what’s going. Once you begin practice, you always keep going, because everything is practice, even the days or the weeks or the months or decades or entire lifetimes when you forgot to meditate, forgot to pay attention to your spiritual thoughts and exercises. Even then you’re still practicing, because it’s impossible to be lost. You are constantly being found whether you know it or not. To practice this slogan, to memorize it, to repeat it to yourself again and again, to bring it up in meditation, to post it on your refrigerator, to keep it in mind is to know that no matter what is going on, no matter how distracted you think you are, no matter how much you feel like a terribly lazy individual who has completely lost track of her good intentions and is now hopelessly astray – even then you are on the path and you have the responsibilities and the ability to take all of that negative chatter and turn it into the path.
Well well well. One would think that all I’m doing these days is reading about mindfulness by the looks of this blog, but rest assured there is more going on.
I’ve been in “giveback mode” in helping work on a new website for my local sangha which looks super spiffy and will be using one of my fave platforms so win-win all around.
Winter in Canada has arrived and I’m really trying to break my traditional habit of viewing the season with contempt. I’m trying to see the beauty in the brisk weather, the slush and the darkness that comes so early at night. Worst case scenario is that I pick up one of those lightboxes to stick my head into for a few months. Then there’s this.
Without any further delay, here are some links and things that caught my attention:
- Rock out over at the Shambhala SunSpace – Metal act Cynic let loose with Buddhism-influenced “Lion’s Roar”
- Via the venerable Sumeru Books blog comes mention of a new Canadian Buddhist blog titled Mahamudra 108 written by Norman Steinberg who recently moved to Dharmsala where he volunteers for the Central Tibetan Administration. Looks pretty interesting.
- Now this is a bucket list.
- The Illusion of Separation via Water Dissolves Water
- A song of Christmas Quiet, by Tom Rosenthal via Susan Cain. I don’t really celebrate Christmas but wanted to share this song and video as it so very beautiful.
So here we are. The end of my full-on, eight week experiment in working with the practices within ‘Mindfulness Starts Here: An Eight Week Guide to Skillful Living’ by doctors Lynette Monteiro & Frank Musten, founders of the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic .
Now a quick bit of housekeeping. I’m in the camp of those who believe in the benefits of non-secular mindfulness for those who are may be looking to add a bit of calm to their lives. No, I came to mindfulness and meditation via Buddhism and not vice versa. Be warned that this influences my review of this book and my overall view of MBSR. There’s enough talk online on the debate between getting Buddhism in the mindfulness and mindfulness in the Buddhism as is seen with the great chocolate in the peanut butter debates of yore.
Further to providing my perspective on this book, as someone who has suffered from panic attacks, I believe that nothing beats good old fashioned cognitive therapy. When I’ve taught introductory meditation classes, I’ve been very upfront in letting people know that meditation, deep introspection, breath work and any of the stuff that is done when we choose to embark on such ‘calming’ practices, can actually churn up emotions, chaos and misery rather than offer the rosy glow of benefits that are listed as side effects from these kinds of practices. I’ve experienced first hand what can come from pushing myself into retreats when I wasn’t feeling ready and seen that it’s best to slow down, pull it together and take time rather than jump headfirst into mind training or mindfulness practice. A gentle approach in my opinion is best. I was heartened to see that the authors express a similar caveat in the beginning of this book and as clinical psychologists, I expected no less. This book is not meant for a substitute for counseling just as dharma texts are best paired with a teacher to help one with their dharma practice.
Overall, ‘Mindfulness Starts Here: An Eight Week Guide to Skillful Living’ is a guidebook that is right up there with those of Jon Kabat Zinn and while shorter in length, delivers a well structured eight week program that evolves with the reader as they complete each chapter. I appreciated the book for its use of science, psychology and the literary references woven throughout. ‘Mindfulness Starts Here’ is a useful read for both clinicians who have some interest in using MBSR practices with their patients as well as those who are interested in learning the techniques. The authors have created a guide that isn’t too technical or too watered down and I appreciate their attention to covering such a diverse audience of readers.
The only drawback I experienced during my time with the book was that I found it difficult to practice diligently given other circumstances within my day to day. Given this, I would advise that this kind of home practice is best done with effort and a commitment to seeing it through, otherwise one may fall off the wagon, and as I experienced, the 8 week program became a 12-14 week program. I think to keep up the momentum, it is best to clear some time to do the work. This is a failing of me and not the book I have to admit.
MBSR may or may not be the gateway towards Buddhism but in my opinion it really isn’t about the goal of creating more Buddhists. Being present in the present moment. Living a fuller life free from suffering, pain and fear. These are all potential outcomes from mindfulness practice. ‘Mindfulness Starts Here: An Eight Week Guide to Skillful Living’ provides readers with lasting techniques to help reduce stress and introduce calm. In today’s world, I think we all can use a bit of this.
Well I’m into week eight of ‘Mindfulness Starts Here – An Eight-Week Guide to Skillful Living’ by Lynette Monteiro, PhD & Frank Musten, PhD (cue ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as I mindfully spit out some well packed chaw out of my mouth).
This final chapter titled ‘Preparing for the Next Chapter’ scared me into thinking that there was more and that I’d be forever writing reviews of this book well into my next reincarnations, but I was reassured after reading that it is more about preparing for the next chapter of our lives rather than a literal next chapter. Whew!
The overall take away from this chapter is that the reader now has (hopefully) gained a reasonable degree of mindfulness and discipline to help them negotiate the challenges of human life via the weekly practices suggested by the authors. A recap of several of the core concepts of the book is provided and several appendices relating to the ‘how to’ of meditation including a robust reading list is included.
Well that’s it.
Next week I’m going to do a big finale review on the book as a whole to wrap things up so stay tuned.
And then that is it…
The post An 8 Week Long Book Review : Week 8 – Mindfulness Starts Here appeared first on Full Contact Enlightenment.
Here we are at Week 7. So close.
The title of the chapter I read/contemplated and did practices from this past week in my continued exploration of ‘Mindfulness Starts Here’ is ‘Sustaining Well-Being Through Compassion’ and is focuses upon contemplating what brought us to the point of even seeking mindfulness in the first place. It’s a chapter that has a much more noticeable Buddhist flavour to it and points to our old friend suffering as the instigator that would bring a person to read, study and practice on the topic of mindfulness or Buddhism in the first place.
After this ‘Why’ is answered, the chapter wastes no time in getting into the result of the practice of mindfulness which is compassion – both for our selves and others. The practice of mindfulness can help to bring us back to being able to restore our balance when we fall apart and just allowing a bit of space to examine our reactions, feelings, habits and the wooha that goes on between our ears can help to provide a pause.
This is a chapter where the backgrounds of the authors as clinical psychologists really shines as it presents several case studies of patients where mindfulness practice helped to relive symptoms of depression, distress and mental disorders. Mindfulness isn’t touted as a cure, but rather a continuous path that when walked upon, can take root in our daily lives.
The chapter outlines several methods that individuals can use to sustain their mental health and well being. It also relays the crucial role that love and compassion plays upon the ability to maintain a sense of well-being (hence the title). Not to play favourites with the chapters, but it is one of my preferred ones within the book given it’s explanation of compassion in a way that uses an interesting analogy relating to medicine and nutrients. I have to confess that I’m going to use this analogy when I provide mindfulness instruction so I’m adding it to my swipe file.
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