Thursday, December 31, 2009


the panic starts to sink in as I realize it's just us.

I sit on a bench as the light slips away and I watch the panic run around the playground, out of control. I'm not intervening, not interfering, just watching to make sure it's OK. sitting on the park bench of loving-kindness, watching the panic tire itself out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

it can be done, and we can do it

The journey of working with fear takes place slowly and repeatedly as you go along the path. You may have many reruns: big reruns and then smaller reruns. Each time you experience fear, you reexperience and reconnect with the whole idea of genuineness, further and more completely. Fear will definitely arise in your life. Therefore, it's crucial to understand how to combat that fear by going further into it and then coming out. None of us should regard ourselves as being trapped. From this point of view, we are free. We can do what we want to do. That is one of the key attitudes we should adopt. Even if you experience great fear, you can go in and out of it. That can be done. That is taking an imperial attitude: it can be done, and we can do it. That sense of freedom and fearlessness is very important. If you understand this, then you won't dwell on your fear.
chogyam trunpa

Monday, December 28, 2009

the mind can be happy devoid of ice cream

"It is fine to take pleasure, to enjoy good food and to listen to beautiful music. Becoming curious about how we suffer doesn't mean we can no longer enjoy eating ice cream. But once we begin to understand the bewilderment of our untrained mind, we won't look to the ice cream and say, 'That's happiness.' We'll realize the mind can be happy devoid of ice cream. We'll realize that the mind is happy and content by nature."
sakyong mipham

Sunday, December 27, 2009

simply shamata

getting back to basic goodness.

everything has it.

even me. when you remove all the overlays, the filters, the delusions, the unskillful ways in which I look at myself, I am bright and shiney and, yes, deserving of the love of myself and others, just because I exist.

I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings.

the meaning of belief is the topic of another post.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

pain personified

The pain, in person, is me at 13 or 14, sitting in one of the recessed doorways of the building on the corner of Walden and Poplar streets. There were three doorways: one was a bar. I don't think the other two led to anything. The pain is curled up, knees pulled up to chest as tightly as possible, head down on knees, arms wrapped around legs -- bare legs, bare arms, she wears shorts and a T-shirt. I never see her face. she keeps it down. she doesn't speak. she has bruises, and there's blood, but she doesn't let me look at the wounds. she doesn't want to be touched -- she flinches == but she won't run away, no matter what you do.

I sit next to her, close but not touching. I love you, I say. no response. I don't know why you might need to be forgiven, I say, but I forgive you. and I'm sorry, so sorry, for whatever landed you here, mute and bloody in a cold doorway that's open to the world. come, I say, let me take you away, but you shake your head ever so slightly. run, I say, go somewhere anywhere, but I know you can't move, can't talk can't get away. so I stay and sit with you, and I am you and we shake from cold and fear and we try to talk but words don't form. I would listen, I say, I will hear you but I know that you have no words, that you can't explain it or express it, and I'll sit with you for hours in therapists' chairs looking for words and finding none. we take deep in-breaths, but let the air out slowly and guardedly without a sound, without a sigh. no relief, just space for the next breath.

Friday, December 25, 2009

demonology 102

my sadness demon is a cat. she slinks in and winds herself around my ankles, unnoticed at first. she sneaks in, gets me to pick her up and cuddle her, then attacks, leaving me with bloody scratches. she's tricky. she wants to be calmed, to be held, to be handled gently, wordlessly. this would be a demon to lay in the cradle of loving-kindness but she doesn't want to be put down.

tolerant open loving and compassionate

"As ordinary sentient beings, we'll never completely rid ourselves of egoistic thoughts and desires; it's more a question of making an honest assessment of our qualities and gradually reducing our self obsessive tendencies. If we can appraise our attitudes as more open, tolerant, loving and compassionate toward ourselves and others, we don't have to question the effectiveness of our mind training practices."

--Traleg Kyabgon from The Practice of Lojong

Thursday, December 24, 2009

demonology 101

I met my anxiety demon on my first night at karme choling. I had expected to arrive, register, be sent to a room and told when and where to appear for dinner and evening meditation. but there was no one at the desk when I got there -- just a piece of paper with my name and directions to the guest house, where I was staying. nothing on times, places, or meals. I stoof there for a few minutes wondering what to do and looking, I'm sure, like I needed to tell someone that Timmy was in the well. Looking, I'm sure, the way I used to look as a kid when total strangers would tell me to cheer up. Finally a man in a suit came out of one door and explained that it was some celebration of something to do with the sakyong and everyone was watching some address, but there was a celebratory dinner at 6 and meditation started at 7 a.m. I drove off to find the guest house. the directions were imprecise in that way that New England directions can be imprecise -- I can't remember them exactly, but there was a sign and a road, on the left and the right, and one was in the wrong place; often there's another sign or another road in the right positions up ahead, so I kept going down a two-lane road with no place to turn around once I realized I was wrong. Finding the house took longer than it should have. My room was lovely and large, but there were two beds, both made up and with towels on them. would I have a roommate? I went back and forth between beds. I being by the wall, but the bed itself was soft and saggy, so I took the other one. but that had no light or table. and so on and on. and once settled, I didn't know what to do. go back to eat? but everyone is dressed up, based on the man in the suit, and all I have are jeans and T-shirts. everything had gone wrong so far, and my ability to accept whatever came along crumbled. I sat on the bed and panicked. and then I removed myself from the panic/anxiety, and invited her to sit down with me. I assured her that it would be OK. her name is wanda, and she is much like chloe from the early seasons of "24" -- awkward and aspberger-y, saying whatever comes to mind without thinking of the effects. we calmed down, and went back to karme choling for dinner and told everyone we met that we were lost and confused. and we got information about what to expect, which calmed the anxiety demon down and told me what I needed to know to get ready for the dathun to start.

instructions 1.0.

listen to that voice. Listen to that hurt. Hold it. Take care of it. Meet pain, even your own with loving understanding. Give those voices a period of being heard. Not the whole day... But a period. Say "I know...I know you're there... I know you are hurting. I hear're being heard."

I"m not yet able to separate from the pain enough to take care of it. I can do that with anxiety, and it works if I remember it. I can do it with sadness if I catch it early enough. The pain, though, is so overwhelming that I can't separate from it enough to meet it with tea and scones or anything else. Anxiety likes tea and scones; she likes an arm around her shoulder. sadness likes to be held and petted (she's a cat). pain .... just takes over.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

perhaps all dragons are princesses

" We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if we could only arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. " -- Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, November 7, 2009

i miss my dad

I spent four hours at the Relay for Life today. It was a strange melange of a scene -- hundreds of people in an airplance hangar at Pratt & Whitney, walking in circles. There was such joy there in the survivors -- one woman in particular danced while holding a sign over her head to get people to buy raffle tickets. Of course, there was sadness. There were "mom's mighty marchers," who all wore red T-shirts with mom's photo on it. There was squeezable plastic prostates with various stages of cancer and a colon with polyps and a disased lung and a healthy one (not real ones -- rubber ones you could squeeze). no breasts, though. the breast cancer people do their own walks. Goodwin College had a sign that implied you should eat five apples a day, rather than five fruits and vegetables of whatever kind. Because it was at UTC, many of the groups were from there. Pratt & Whitney military engines group was selling "hope" bracelets. sikorsky blad had a hollow helicopter blade to be filled with donations. it was a day to practice patience with slow walkers and observe the great amounts of compassion and generosity in the room. I got all emotional looking at the luminaria table and thinking about decorating one for my dad. what would I write? I still miss you dad, even after 18 years. I'm sad that you didn't get to know BT and Mims. You would have liked them, as people, not just as grandkids. eh ... life and it's impermanence.

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Gift of Fearlessness

(From a talk given by Sensei Eve Myonen Marko on the Dana Paramita on September 12, 2009.)

Recently I read a brief talk by Sharon Salzberg, in which she said, “There is always trauma in the room.” You don’t have to be a war veteran or a survivor of abuse, trauma is in the room. And with trauma comes fear.

The dana paramita, the paramita of giving, is about the giving of fearlessness. One way to do that is by showing fearlessness. When we sit we let go of thoughts, eschewing fear and distraction, and give ourselves the gift of our own life. We let go of protective mechanisms and the world comes in. We let go of separation, and the riches of the universe pour in. Off the cushion we practice and live in the same way, as though nothing is missing. Anytime we think we’re poor or we withdraw in fear, it reflects a fixation on some aspect of poverty or suffering. Life lived out of that attachment is narrow and fearful. Living from the moment, living out of letting go, is a gift of fearlessness to others.

There is another way of giving fearlessness that is quite different. It’s sharing the fear and vulnerability, showing the trauma as it’s being healed. This is a way of giving not from our strength, not from what we have a lot of, but rather from what we perceive as weakness, from our own vulnerability, from the side we prefer to keep private.

Ordinarily we like to show the world our best side, the side that is successful, that manages, that’s healthy and under control. But there’s always trauma in the room. We have another treasure trove from which to give, and that is the sharing of our failures, of our struggles to remain connected in a real way to ourselves and others, of trust in the big picture. It’s like presenting a koan, and the koan I’m presenting is my own life, including what I label as its underbelly. Instead of keeping weaknesses and doubts secret I share them, I present the day-in, day-out work that I do in engaging with them.

One sees that in council, when we’re asked to be spontaneous and speak from the heart. Those who do that often speak hesitantly, as if hearing the words for the first time, working out what they have to say as they say it. That, too, is a model of fearlessness. Natalie Goldberg says that when you write, don’t be afraid to be the worst writer in the world. Don’t be afraid to present incorrect grammar or spelling mistakes, don’t be afraid to be repetitive or tentative or garbled. Just write. That’s fearlessness.

It means not hiding, not posturing, not pretending. The Dalai Lama has said that if you understand the doctrine of dependent origination, you understand the dharma. If there’s this, then there’s that. If this happened, then that happened. Everything is interdependent and co-arising. How do you teach it? By being it. By facing our lives cleanly and transparently. By not hiding or holding secrets.

Giving possessions is often easier for me than giving the dharma, which means sharing all of me. It’s easier to give homeless people money than introducing yourself by name; it’s easier to write a check to a distant charity than go into our own schools and slums. It’s easier to give a workshop on something I’ve mastered than to share something I struggle with. It’s easier to know than to bear witness.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

everybody has a hungry heart

This weekend I went to visit my mother for her 80th birthday. My brother planned a party (and I let him without feeling resentful, a first). I have a lot of issues with my mother, a lifetime of hurt and resentment. I figured out my new ipod a couple of days before and had downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Against the Stream, including the forgiveness talk and meditation from Kripalu. (I was there, but I figured I would hear new things if I listened when I wasn't so distraught.) In the car on the way to the airport, I did the meditation (my husband was driving). On the plane, I listened to the talk. What struck me this time was your statement that "no one hurts you out of wisdom." And I thought about that a lot.
As a result, I was able to meet my mother in a new way, with a heart that was open at least a crack. And it was probably the best visit we've ever had. I learned things about her -- she's holding resentments of her own that are 50 years old -- and at one point, I walked into the kitchen and gave her a hug for no particular reason, which never happens.
The slate's not clean by any means. There's a well of old pain there that I have to work through, slowly. And by opening my heart to her, I discovered a dozen other people who I need to drop my resentments toward that I hadn't even thought of. I see why this takes years.
But I left there with no new resentments. She's 80 years old, and for a moment or two, there was a pure love between us. I'm happy about that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

rejecting our emotions is a problem

"When we recognize an emotion, such as strong passion accompanied by jealousy, we are actually breaking down the speed of that emotion. The total sense of recognition is important in both Sutra and Tantra. In Sutra, it is mindfulness. In Tantra, if we see that nature and look at it nakedly, we will see the nature of that wisdom. You don't need to logically apply any reasoning. You don't need to conceptually meditate on anything. Just simply recognize and observe it....We will have the experience of that wisdom by simply being with it without conception. Therefore, recognition is quite important.

"The first step is just simply to observe it. Simply recognize the emotion and then watch it as it grows or as it continues. Just simply watch it. In the beginning, just to have an idea that [the emotion] is coming is very important and effective. In the Vajrayana [Tantric] sense, the way to watch these emotions is without stopping them. If we recognize the emotion and say, "Yes, it is passion," and then try to stop it, that's a problem. Rejection our emotions is a problem in Vajrayana.

-Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Penetrating Wisdom

rejecting our emotions is a problem

"When we recognize an emotion, such as strong passion accompanied by jealousy, we are actually breaking down the speed of that emotion. The total sense of recognition is important in both Sutra and Tantra. In Sutra, it is mindfulness. In Tantra, if we see that nature and look at it nakedly, we will see the nature of that wisdom. You don't need to logically apply any reasoning. You don't need to conceptually meditate on anything. Just simply recognize and observe it....We will have the experience of that wisdom by simply being with it without conception. Therefore, recognition is quite important.

"The first step is just simply to observe it. Simply recognize the emotion and then watch it as it grows or as it continues. Just simply watch it. In the beginning, just to have an idea that [the emotion] is coming is very important and effective. In the Vajrayana [Tantric] sense, the way to watch these emotions is without stopping them. If we recognize the emotion and say, "Yes, it is passion," and then try to stop it, that's a problem. Rejection our emotions is a problem in Vajrayana.

-Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Penetrating Wisdom

Saturday, October 3, 2009

breaking open

Today I had the realization that when your heart breaks open, it opens to immeasurable joy as well as immeasurable pain. And that you can experience both while you're driving to the gym, and neither one makes you drive off the road.

Then, as I was walking on the treadmill before yoga, I read this (in an article by Pema Chodren in Shambhala Sun): "Somehow when my heart broke, the qualities of natural warmth, qualities like kindness and empathy and appreciation, just spontaneously emerged."

And my heart and brain both said a big huge "yes!" to this because that was exactly what I had experienced.

When I meditate, I tell myself, I love you, I forgive, I'm sorry. 54 times (twice around the wrist mala). and I see that someday I might be able to mean it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

the month of me

I've come up with a practice plan that's different from what we discussed, but I think it works for me right now. I'm going to make October a month of maitri for me. After our talk, I feel like I need to get back in touch with my own buddhanature/basic goodness on a heart level. so, I'm going to devote part of my daily meditation, maybe 10 minutes, to maitri or tonglen just for me. I think if I really get that, it will naturally extend out to those around me.

and for my off-the-cushion practice, I'm going to practice mindful acquisition of clothing. before I buy another black skirt or get sucked into the sale rack at anthropologie, I'm going to actually think about what need the item of clothing in question meets. do I already own something like it? if so, why do I need another? what do I think this item of clothing will do for me -- make me happy? make me feel pretty? hide my deficiencies from the world? and if that's what I want it to do, will it really work? or is there a better, deeper way of getting to that need? I'm going to try to enlist one of my wiser girlfriends to help me in this.

maybe you see the connection between the on-the-cushion off-the-cushion practices. I do. I buy clothes to make myself feel good, but maybe I can work on just feeling good about myself instead.

sept. 27

yesterday the world was shiny, to use a word from the joss whedonverse. on the subway, two muscled-up guys got up and gave up their seats, and another woman and I did a polite dance about trying to let the other person have it (a third person just took one.) ultimately, we both fit. then, after hanging out at bryant park at the very parisian tables, I got to overhear a conversation among three dudes about how the buddha came to enlightenment. "no, no he was like a prince, and he went out to look at his kingdom and then he sat down under a tree, and like didn't eat, dude, and then vishnu came and sat with him and another guy. and that was how it spread." "dude, some of these guys can meditate so deeply that you can't tell if they're dead or alive." "dude, when they died, they found that they rotted out from the inside from not eating or something." if only they knew.

october practice plan

Friday, September 25, 2009

the living cannot help but love the world

The Adamantine Perfection of Desire
by Jane Hirshfield

Nothing more strong
than to be helpless before desire.

No reason,
the simplified heart whispers,
the argument over,
only This.

No longer choosing anything but assent.

Its bowl scraped clean to the bottom,
the skull-bone cup no longer horrifies,
but, rimmed in silver, shines.

A spotted dog follows a bitch in heat.
Gray geese flying past us, crying.
The living cannot help but love the world.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


everything IS ok.

thank you for knowing that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

right speech

I would ask sangha members to be mindful of their words and to consider whether what they are about to say constitutes right speech. The traditional test is: is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?
snarkiness aimed at another member of the sangha is neither necessary nor kind. I would go so far as to say that anything you mutter under your breath is probably not right speech.

and rather than apologize, how 'bout if you look at why you make those kinds of comments? what's the attachment here: to being right? to being superior? to being more intelligent?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

there's this mauve handbag

Suzuki Roshi:
And we should forget, day-by-day, what we have done; this is true non-attachment. And we should do something new. To do something new, of course we must know our past, and this is all right. But we should not keep holding onto anything we have done; we should only reflect on it. And we must have some idea of what we should do in the future.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

an endorsement of cake

Today I learned about the Buddhist practice of "offering cakes," which convinces me even more than I am a born buddhist. "If you think nonhumans might be trying to harm you because you are indebted to them in some way, you can give them 'offering cakes.' ... It is not necessary to make a proper ritual cake. You can offer anything or just imagine that you're making some form of restitution. ...It is not the ritual that is important here, but the psychological process of saying, 'Come in, have some cake, and stop bothering me.'"

The book ("The Practice of Lojong" by Traleg Kyabgon) goes on to say that evil spirits can be seen as our inner psychological states or external being.

so by extension, it's good practice to say, "hey, depression, have some cake and quit plaguing me." offering real cake, or maybe cupcakes, of course.

Monday, August 10, 2009

hip hop as practice

"Hip hop teaches its practitioners to meet discontinuities with inventiveness. These improvisatory forms provide experience in keeping one's footing in an unstable environment, and in keeping one's cool amidst upheaval. Without formal training, b-boys and b-girls have devised some of the most virutosic, witty, and resonant art that has been made in our time."
Suzanna Carbonneau writing about Rennie Harris Pure Movement