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Recently Read: Don’t be a Jerk

March 27, 2016 - 9:17am

I just finished reading Brad Warner’s latest book Don’t be a Jerk and Other Practical Advice from D?gen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master and have to say that I quite enjoyed it.

I must begin by admitting that I’m not a Zen student, so I come at this with a particular lens that may differ from someone who’s really a hardcore (or softcore) Zen student.

This book is Warner’s attempt to explain D?gen’s Sh?b?genz? – a collection of talks and writings that covers everything from feminism, the cleaning and maintenance of Zen robes, to the Heart Sutra and how to clean your butt. Yes. Really. It’s all in here! Warner is looking to paraphrase D?gen’s book and provide his own interpretation, thus adding his name to the list of all of those who also have provided their take on what D?gen was putting out there. It is a text that Warner has studied and practiced for many years and he believes is one that is essential for us to investigate today. His wish to make D?gen (and all of the Dharma for that matter) accessible is what makes him such a vital teacher and author for our times. I’m of the mindset that by modernizing the teachings and putting them in an authentic voice, without distorting the message is only going to help to continue the Dharma and help it grow beyond it’s appeal to the Boomer generation.

Much like living off of a diet of McDonald’s burgers, you need to also go to the salad bar – so I’d suggest (as Warner too mentions in the book), that it’s also a great idea to consult other works for a balanced diet. I really appreciated the level of care that Warner has taken in offering up additional books for the reader to check out – both other interpretations of D?gen’s Sh?b?genz?, as well as Buddhist books in general.

One chapter of Don’t be a Jerk sets out to describe the landscape and presents details on all others who have bravely ventured into digging into D?gen’s work before he did. Warner is to be credited for his attempt to distill much of it as well as he has. In several cases, Warner is put in the role of untangling what D?gen said. Whether this is due to translation issues, making the texts relatable to a modern audience or differences of opinion with others who have interpreted this work – it’s apparent that the Sh?b?genz? is a book that could warrant a series of books dedicated exclusively to segments of it.

So yeah. This book is typical Brad Warner. It’s funny. It’s quirky. There are quite a few “Dad jokes” and funny quips in this book – so many that you can almost hear a sad trombone or rim shot play along after each one. The book is light and breezy, yet meaty and philosophical. A good balance has been achieved and Warner admits upfront that there are several chapters where “shit starts to get real” and the subject matter gets deep. He is relatable and in turn, makes the teachings relatable. One leaves after reading this book feeling like they hung out with a friend as opposed to having been knocked about the head by an egg-headed, ego-puffed know-it-all. Throughout the book, Warner offers many personal anecdotes on his practice, study and experiences and then provides advice given what he’s been privy to.

I also appreciate Warner’s use of pop-culture in his books. Namedropping everything from Robyn Hitchcock, Oasis, Howard the Duck, I Heart Huckabees, he seeks to meld the Dharma with modern times and sees the Dharma in everything from MAD magazine and 70’s Saturday morning cartoons to psychedelic rock and monster movies.

As a non-Zen student, I appreciated this book for what it added to my understanding of Buddhism. Many of D?gen’s teachings in his book, Sh?b?genz? transcend labeling and much of it reads as a “How To” guide for Buddhists of all stripes. There’s something for everyone in here folks! Be warned though, some of it gets a bit heady and in those areas, Warner too admits that the section in question may warrant a re-read and additional investigation on the part of the reader.

With deep thoughts on how to sit and suggestions for practice, a dive into both the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, the concept of no-self, koans, reincarnation, feminism, ethics and morality and transmission and lineage, Warner covers A LOT of ground.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-read (or at least easier to read) book on D?gen, then I wholeheartedly recommend Brad Warner’s Don’t be a Jerk. If you’re a long-time Brad Warner fan, you’ll certainly want to pick this one up. If you’re new to Zen or have an interest in discovering D?gen, then this is a great book to get started with on your journey.

Check out this episode of the Secular Buddhist Podcast if you wish to hear a bit more from Brad on this topic.

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Random Linkage: Podcasts, Miscellany and More

February 23, 2016 - 3:55pm

Been a while friends. Been a while. I’ve been studying a whole lot but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t on my mind.

Here are a few distractions from my studies that I’d love to share with you all.

  • This episode of this rather nefarious sounding podcast was something my husband said I’d quite like and he was right. Check out Criminal – Episode 15. He’s Neutral.
  • Speaking of podcasts… I started one. We’ll see how long the novelty lasts! If you want to chat with me for an episode, drop me a line. I’d love to yak with you – about anything really.
  • Do you feel this way too? Not just you Jim Gaffigan. It’s not just you.

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Recently Read: You Are Not What You Think

January 24, 2016 - 8:26am

You Are Not What You Think: The Egoless Path to Self-Esteem and Generous Love is the exact book that I needed to cross my path in this particular stage in my life. I’m going through a great deal of “self work” and unraveling some habits and thought processes to fully see how I operate in the world. This book provides a reality check for the ego. A flashlight that can be used to shed light on some of the dark areas where we scurry and hide. I spent a lot of time reading this book, nodding my head with a knowing “Yes. I do that” and highlighting spots to revisit and sit with at a later date.

Again. I am going to say that here’s a book that changed my life. For this, I apologize. I don’t know if I’m “operating at a higher frequency” or “open to the messages that the world is sending” or any other kind of woo woo hypothesis that may be applied to this current situation. Regardless, it’s a good thing.

David Richo is a writer, psychotherapist, teacher and workshop leader. He blends his multi-faith background with psychology training and what results in this book is an offering that is a sampler plate of many different ways to view the ego – in both its healthy and unhealthy forms.

You Are Not What You Think is a deep-dive into the ego. What it looks like, where it comes from and an examination of various views and perspectives on it – from Freud, Jung and the Buddha to name but a few. There are several helpful practices within its pages designed to help discover where it lies and how to work with it. Themes such as what a healthy and unhealthy ego looks like as well as how it presents itself in our relationships with others are also touched upon. Richo presents a world in which one moves about in the world with a healthy ego – free from self-centeredness.

The book isn’t a call to arms to murder one’s ego, but rather speaks to how it needs to be “held and tamed respectfully.” Reading it made me a better person. Really. I started to see a bit of a shitty dark side in how I relate with others which could be put right back onto a fear response that I was experiencing in my day to day life. I find it’s easier to see the egos of others at play- so having a means to see another side was pretty eye opening for me. This book flipped a switch on my usual ego-centered perspective and helped me to expand my view a bit further. I’m better able to see how ego bloating has kept me from living- and loving fully.

You Are Not What You Think presents both a spiritual and psychological way of examining the ego and how to be free from self-centeredness. It touches on themes such as fear, kindness, compassion, awareness, self-compassion and mindfulness. The book features many practices to try in order to befriend one’s ego and let go of the past programming. It’s clear and easy to read and fully relatable. If you’re a fan of Brené Brown (as am I), then this book will be right up your alley given it touches upon fear, shame and vulnerability.

I can’t recommend You Are Not What You Think enough. I’ve already seen great changes in my life after reading it. And that’s not my ego talking!

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Towards a Liberation-based Livelihood in 2016

December 31, 2015 - 2:00pm

Right livelihood. It can be yours even if it feels so far away. One step to make it even closer it to find someone who knows how to make it happen and can coach you. Whether it’s being overwhelmed, having fears about what this kind of transition would be like for your life (and wallet), or just not knowing how to get started – it helps to have a sherpa to guide you along towards a liberation-based livelihood.

I’ve been fortunate through the Buddhablogosphere to have met Dharma-sister Maia Duerr. Wise, compassionate, someone who truly cares about the world. Maia has been helping lead confused beings like myself towards discovering what they are truly passionate about and then putting them on the path to doing the work. I’ve just recently wrapped up one of her ecourses and it has given me a greater sense of clarity in how I view my 9-5.

Maia is offering a free webinar this Sunday and I’d totally encourage you to sign up if you’re curious about liberation-based livelihood.

You’ll learn:

  • What is a liberation-based livelihood? What are three possible pathways to make it happen in your life?
  • The 6 “keys” that will support you to make a transformation in your work
  • The most important thing you can do today to put yourself on the road to work that you love

Get in on this action!

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Random Linkage: Season’s Weepings

December 31, 2015 - 8:40am

It’s the time of the year where everyone’s feeling awesome and cheery and light.

Well some of us. It’s OK if you’re not. Know you’re not alone in feeling sad, guilty, happy, miserable, lighthearted, messy, Christmas cheery and not-so-celebratory. But if you are in need of an ear and do need help – don’t be afraid to reach out.

Here’s what’s been lurking in my mind and around me lately:

  • Hardcore Zen offers up some thoughts on Good Times Bad Times
  • Are you like me and spending time with end of the year/beginning of the new year reflections and intention setting? I’ve been sitting with Susanna Conway’s workbook which has become a bit of a yearly tradition for me. I always appreciate seeing what 2015 delivered – and hoo haw it delivered big time this past year. Now to take these lessons into 2016.
  • Ever have those moments when you’re in a Uber and a song comes on and completely sets the soundtrack for what you’re feeling and you laugh to yourself because it feels like you are in an episode of Master of None or GIRLS and it is THE song that makes the scene dryly humourous due to the timing? Well a few weeks ago on the way home from therapy, the driver was jamming to some radio-friendly tunes and this druggy-hip-hopppy beat came on with some sad rappers singing about being “Stressed Out.” It was a moment. Perfect timing. Perfect song for the mood. It snapped my melancholy and made me smile.

And a brilliant tribute to Lemmy. I don’t know the name of the artist and wish I could credit them.

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Recently Read: The Body of Chris

December 13, 2015 - 2:54pm

Judging a book by its cover, this one features a color photo of a shirtless, tattooed man emblazoned across the book jacket. While this is quite common with many of the publications sitting on bookshelves today – memoirs of heavy metal musicians or biographies of male supermodels- this one is quite different and exceptionally powerful.

Author Chris Cole – the shirtless man on the cover, struggled with his weight and body perception for a large part of his life. This cover photo is testimony to how far he has come towards self-acceptance and healing. Baring himself fully both on the cover and within the pages of the book, Cole has demonstrated an unshakable ability to heal. It is a very honest and personal story.

The book traces his descent from mild anxiety and the natural ‘weirdness’ that comes with being a goofy kid, to a teenager and then man, spiraling out of control due to mental illness and addiction. He had struggled with being obsessed with his body self image, his size, his strength, his sexuality and manhood and these insecurities carried on into adulthood and increased in intensity and severity.

Within The Body of Chris, the author also explores how spirituality has been such a strong part of his life, both positively and negatively. It had contributed to his delusions, several manic episodes, and then in the end, his eventual healing. Yeah. He’s certainly covered all of the bases.

His personal story of suffering, and then redemption takes several interesting twists and turns leaving the reader wondering where he’d end up after all. It’s a must-read for anyone who is experiencing or knows someone who has gone through any of the troubles I’ve mentioned that are covered in this book. Somewhere there is a 14-year-old boy out there struggling with an eating disorder or about to turn towards alcohol to drown his problems. I’m grateful that there is a book such as this one that expresses pain in a way that is relatable and without pretense.

The Body of Chris is a brave memoir in which the author has offered up his story of confusion, addiction, religion, self-abuse, sexuality, and mental illness – balanced with insight into his healing through self-work, therapy, acceptance and being of service to both help oneself, as well as others who are going through or have experienced similar setbacks, temptations or problems in their life.

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Lotus Petals in the Snow – Now Available for Purchase!

December 9, 2015 - 10:33am

This is not a drill!

The book that I’ve been working on is officially out!

It’s been a complete labor of love, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that being a first time editor of roughly 30 pieces was easy – especially when working with the words of so many people who I admire. The who’s who of Canadian Buddhist women is right here folks. All in this one book! I’m still left shaking my head.

My teacher Ponlop Rinpoche often speaks to the power of repeating the teachings in order to make sure that the messages really stick. This is no different when editing a book given that you’ve reviewed the same submission several times and then one more time. What’s interesting is that each time I went through the articles, I was left with deeper messages emerging or a new layer of feelings towards them. Each one provided a glimpse of the Dharma as expressed by a fellow female Timbit muncher (Canadian-speak for delicious mini doughnuts).

It was a true joy to have worked on this book, but what makes it even more meaningful is that it is a gift economy book, which means that 100% of net proceeds from online sales will be donated to the Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Foundation for charitable work. Proceeds from direct sales will support local Buddhist initiatives across Canada. Everyone involved in the project had donated their energy, work and and time.

You can purchase the anthology at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Indigo.ca

If you do purchase the anthology, please be sure to leave a review. Also please do help to spread the word in your network.

If you do pick up a copy, please let me know what you think of it. I’d love to hear your feedback.

 

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