Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years

I feel a little bad that I'm not spending New Years at the zendo, but I couldn't pass up a chance spending it with my best friend who travelled halfway across the world from France.
I've been spending part of my school break at my parent's house, and I manage to take some beautiful pictures. They live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I'll upload them soon.

New Years Resolutions:
- To appriciate both the happy and sad moments
- To do more to help people
- More zazen. I always feel much better afterwards.
- Do better in school. I had a horrible semester and made a lot of mistakes that are worth learning from. I need to focus better.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

And peace to all beings ^_^

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Doctrine of Compassion

"We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received
wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion....
This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need
for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated
philosophy, doctrine or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple.
The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and
dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are
learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some
other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and
conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is
no doubt we will be happy."

- The Dalai Lama

Rules to Live By


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Favorite

This is, and always will be, one of my favorite Buddhist quotes. It doesn't even matter is Buddha actually said it or not. It's a pretty cool notion, one that many other religions lack.

Problem (help!)

I have a holiday problem on my hands.

My step mother has declared that I am not allowed to spend christmas with my father and family because I am Buddhist, and that automatically means that I am a god-less heathen who shouldn't be celebrating christmas.

How do I go about dealing with this? My father has agreed with her, so I won't be with him for Christmas. There is already a lot of suffering on all sides, and I don't wish to add to it any more then I may already have.

Any advice will be welcomed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kafka on Silence

Learn To Be Quiet
by Franz Kafka

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oddball Thoughts.

I wonder if the Suicide Hotline has been getting more calls lately.

It's a morbid thought, I know.
But with the economy the way it is, violence and suicides tend to rise. Which made me realize how much importance we put in wealth and all it's securities, and how dangerous this is. The amount of power we have let the concept of money generate is outstanding and appalling, and the corruption that follows it is disheartening.
I guess it was my mini-epiphany of the day, as I was helping a friend through a hard time, and thinking of all the people out there who need help, and all the people out there who provide help.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What the Next President Will Inherit


I posted this not for political reasons, but because it is an example of the current world we live in. While there are things we, (the citizens), don't have the power to fix, such as the huge deficit, there are things we can do to make this world a little bit a better place:

Support relief areas.
Raise awareness.
Spread compassion.

There is so much we are capable of doing, even if the small things seem like they make no impact, think of how much worse off we would be if people just didn't bother.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Happiness doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It just means you've managed to look beyond the imperfections.

- Unknown

too true... ^_^

Monday, December 8, 2008

Symptoms of inner peace

This made me smile ^_^

Some signs and symptoms of inner peace:

* A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.

* An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

* A loss of interest in judging other people.

* A loss of interest in judging self.

* A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

* A loss of interest in conflict.

* A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)

* Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

* Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.

* Frequent attacks of smiling.

* An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

* An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

found at

The (Not So True) Karma Story

I try to make it a habit not to use the death's of others to prove a point, but this story was too bizzare to pass up. Consider it a perfect, real-life example of karma

At the 1994 annual awards dinner given by the American Association for Forensic Sciences, AAFS President Don Harper Mills astounded his audience in San Diego with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story...

On March 23 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a gunshot wound of the head caused by a shotgun. Investigation to that point had revealed that the decedent had jumped from the top of a ten story building with the intent to commit suicide. (He left a note indicating his despondency.) As he passed the 9th floor on the way down, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, killing him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the 8th floor level to protect some window washers, and that the decedent would not have been able to complete his intent to commit suicide because of this...

Ordinarily a person who starts into motion the events with a suicide intent ultimately commits suicide even though the mechanism might be not what he intended. That he was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not change his mode of death from suicide to homicide, but the fact that his suicide intent would not have been achieved under any circumstance caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands...

Further investigation led to the discovery that the room on the 9th floor from whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. He was threatening her with the shotgun because of an interspousal spat and became so upset that he could not hold the shotgun straight. Therefore, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking the decedent.

When one intends to kill subject A, but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. The old man was confronted with this conclusion, but both he and his wife were adamant in stating that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. It was the longtime habit of the old man to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun. He had no intent to murder her; therefore, the killing of the decedent appeared then to be accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded...

But further investigation turned up a witness that their son was seen loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal accident. That investigation showed that the mother (the old lady) had cut off her son's financial support, and her son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that the father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus...

Further investigation revealed that the son became increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to get his mother murdered. This led him to jump off the ten story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a 9th story window.

The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Neil Patrick Harris saves the economy! (And Jack Black is jesus)

I saw this and laughed. I hope it brightens your day.

"Prop 8: The Musical"

A poetic perspective of death

I am always interested in different perspectives of death, be it dealing with loss, grim reapers, afterlife, or zombies. (Yes, zombies). This poem struck my heart with its simplicity and honestly.
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

found at

There may be hope for humanity

Before you go blaming all Christians for the whole Propostition 8 fiasco, read this:

There is hope yet for humanity.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Awkward Buddhist

Thanksgiving could have gone better, but all things considering, it wasn't bad.
The worse of it was when my step-father-in-law (take a moment to figure that one out). gave me a bunch of magazines on creationism.
That kinda irked me.
See, here in lies the problem: I'm Buddhist, and I love science. I'm not good at it, especially at chemistry. I prefer physiology, pathology, and genetics. And I will never believe that science disproves/proves God. Science really isn't about God, its about the world around us. There are good arguements saying that this was all an event of chaos, and there are good arguements saying there is force behind it all.
There is no good evidence, however, which says that the earth is 6,000 years old, and was created in 7 days. And it irks me when I see people twist statistics and use dirty methods and claim it as "science." Not just creationists do this, mind you, but thousands of other studies on hundreds of other subjects. It confuses the truth, and misleads people into doing harmful things (like Fen-Phen).

But what really killed me the most is that I couldn't say anything to him about it. My family (except my mother and father), think I'm still Christian, mostly because my mom would have a heart attack if I told them I was Buddhist.
I hate this for two reasons:
- I feel like I'm lying to them by not telling them and playing along. I have to play along, or else I'll worry them, or they'll try to reconvert me, which would be rather awkward, even though they have nothing but the best intentions.
- And I feel rather oppressed. Here is a sweet old man giving me Creationist material, which kind of offends me as student of science, and I can't tell him I don't believe in this and politely turn him away. While they walk around the house praising God and Jesus, I cannot even utter so much as a simple mantra, or talk of Buddah's wisdom, or Quan Yin's compassion. Come this December, they will celebrate not a secular Christmas, but a very religious one, and I will have to be there, uncomfortable and half-drugged to avoid anxiety. (Yet on Bodhi Day, I will be alone.) I like a lot of what Christ had to say, but the lack of a Middle Way among his some of his followers is dangerous and makes me uncomfortable.
I doubt that this would be a problem if they weren't so fervently religious. I'm comfortable as a Buddhist around my parents, because they are sure in their faith, but they keep it private. I don't feel judged if I sit down for a few moments of zazen.

So, in celebration of my personal beliefs, I share with you Buddhist-related humor, via Sinfest.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Buddhism and The Butterfly Effect

I like how the Buddhist chick sets off the effect of happiness :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Buddhist Heaven and Hell

The Buddhist Concept of Heaven and Hell

The wise man makes his own heaven while the foolish man creates his own hell here and hereafter.

The Buddhist concept of heaven and hell is entirely different from that in other religions. Buddhists do not accept that these places are eternal. It is unreasonable to condemn a man to eternal hell for his human weakness but quite reasonable to give him every chance to develop himself. From the Buddhist point of view, those who go to hell can work themselves upward by making use of the merit that they had acquired previously. There are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever.

The Buddha's Teaching shows us that there are heavens and hells not only beyond this world, but in this very world itself. Thus the Buddhist conception of heaven and hell is very reasonable. For instance, the Buddha once said, 'When the average ignorant person makes an assertion to the effect that there is a Hell (patala) under the ocean he is making a statement which is false and without basis. The word 'Hell' is a term for painful sensations. 'The idea of one particular ready-made place or a place created by god as heaven and hell is not acceptable to the Buddhist concept.

The fire of hell in this world is hotter than that of the hell in the world-beyond. There is no fire equal to anger, lust or greed and ignorance. According to the Buddha, we are burning from eleven kinds of physical pain and mental agony: lust, hatred, illusion sickness, decay, death, worry, lamentation, pain(physical and mental), melancholy and grief. People can burn the entire world with some of these fires of mental discord. From a Buddhist point of view, the easiest way to define hell and heaven is that where ever there is more suffering, either in this world or any other plane, that place is a hell to those who suffer. And where there is more pleasure or happiness, either in this world or any other worldly existence, that place is a heaven to those who enjoy their worldly life in that particular place. However, as the human realm is a mixture of both pain and happiness, human beings experience both pain and happiness and will be able to realize the real nature of life. But in many other planes of existence inhabitants have less chance for this realization. In certain places there is more suffering than pleasure while in some other places there is more pleasure than suffering.

Buddhists believe that after death rebirth can take place in any one of a number of possible existences. This future existence is conditioned by the last thought-moment a person experiences at the point of death. This last thought which determines the next existence results from the past actions of a man either in this life or before that. Hence, if the predominant thought reflects meritorious action, then he will find his future existence in a happy state. But that state is temporary and when it is exhausted a new life must begin all over again, determined by another dominating 'kammic' energy. This repetitious process goes on endlessly unless one arrives at 'Right View' and makes a firm resolve to follow the Noble Path which produces the ultimate happiness of Nibbana.

Heaven is a temporary place where those who have done good deeds experience more sensual pleasures for a longer period. Hell is another temporary place where those evil doers experience more physical and mental suffering. It is not justifiable to believe that such places are permanent. There is no god behind the scene of heaven and hell. Each and every person experiences according to his good and bad kamma. Buddhist never try to introduce Buddhism by frightening people through hell-fire or enticing people by pointing to paradise. Their main idea is character building and mental training. Buddhists can practise their religion without aiming at heaven or without developing fear of hell.

found at

I am thankful for

I thought this was pretty appropriate for Thanksgiving week:

I Am Thankful For...

For the teenager who is not doing dishes but is watching TV, because that means he is at home and not on the streets.

For the taxes I pay, because it means that I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party, because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work, because it means I am out in the sunshine.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government, because it means that we have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking, and that I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.

For the lady behind me in my place of worship when she sings off key, because it means that I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear.

For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been capable of working hard.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means that I am alive.

found on

Friday, November 21, 2008

False Securities

As I look around me, it seems that everyone is searching for something.
We dedicate our lives to this search, looking for it in God, religion, music, relationships, sex, drugs, art, science.
Do we even know what we are looking for? I don't. I wondered for the longest time what it is, exactly, we search so diligently for, what it is that we fail to find, and end up waandering lost through life.
At frist I thought we were searching for the meaning of life. After all, it is the age old question, the one people have debated and died for throughout history. It seemed like a good enough answer, but somehow, when applied to the reality of those around me, it didn't quite fit. If it did, we would be nothing more then walking existential crisises.
And we're not.
So, while it sound nice and profound, the meaning of life is not what were are searching for. Not truely. Its merely a sideshow along the way, but not the actual journey.

You are born.
Some are born into luckier circumstances then others. You go to school, get the best education the government can buy (God help us all on that on). You graduate. You go to work, or you may go to college, which will inevidably lead you to work as well. There is nothing wrong with work. It creates discipline and molds character. We go to work to get money, because we live in a society founded on money.

Yet we keep searching. And whatever answer we find, we find in different places. Often times, even after we've thought we found the answer, a little while later, we are searching again.

I realized today, while drive home, what it is people are seeking, striving for, what they want.

We do not want to know the meaning of life. Sure, it's fun to think about and debate, but in the end, we don't want to know. If someone was to tell us "This is your purpose in life," we would probably, in our human folly, reject it.

We want security.
Ever since we huddled together in caves, cringing at distant howls of the untamed wilderness, we've wanted security.
We go to school, to get and education, to get a job, to get money, because in this capitolistic culture or ours, money buy security.
You have the perfect house, the perfect wife, the perfect kids, the perfect neighborhood, because perfection is a sign of security. Anything imperfect cannot be secure, so the logic goes.
When the towers came crashing down, we signed away our rights, because we want security. People with too much freedom will pursue dangerous activties, threatening the perfect security we've built for ourselves.

We are constantly seeking it, and when we've found it, we dedicate our lives to maintaining it. We create levels of status, which we strive to ascend not for riches or respect(though they are nice), but for security. We create our identity based on the things that give us the comfort of security.

Security in our jobs.
Security in our relationships.
Security in our future.
Security in our afterlife.

We do this because the future is unknown, and we don't like the unknown. We fear it. We hold it in contempt and disdain. We hate unexpected surprises.
We do this because if we spend all of our lives focusing on attaining and maintaining security, we won't have to face the ugly insecurities that lie within us. They will be left alone in the dark corners of our soul, forgotten and ignored, never dying, but simply waiting, paitently, for the day our securities come tumbling down.

There is a cruel bit of irony in all of this, when you step back and look at the bigger picture, because in all reality, there really is no security.
It is simply an illusion.
The education, the job, the marriage, the house, the family; There is no security in any of these. A degree can be rendered useless by new scientific advancements, a job can disappear in a wave of recession, a marriage is never guaranteed, a home can burn, and a family can be torn apart in a thousand horrific ways.

And whats ironic is that we know this. We know, honestly, that there is no true security in any of these things, in anything life has to offer. We know it is all an elaborate illusion we've create for ourselves, a false reality we've built so that we don't have to face the actual reality. But we keep coming back to these things, reveling in the ficitional securities they provide. We say we care for these things, and maybe we do, but we care more for the secruity they provide us with. In truth, that may be why we care for them in the first place. These things offer us the illusion of security, and we love them for it.

Security is the ultimate form of power, because it is proof we have power over ourselves and our future. We have conquered that dispised unknown.

And to all that, I say simple this:
Fuck it.

To me, from where I'm standing, its not worth it.
I go to college not for a piece of paper and 5 to 6 figures a year, but because I enjoy the experience, and I enjoy learning. Education has long been a favorite past time.
I grew up in an environment that could be very unstable at times, and I learned early on how little security there is in families. I won't deny myself mine, but I don't depend on them for security either.
I go into Medical Technology not for the money or job security, but because it is something that interests me, and something that is desperately needed. I love the medical field, but if I were to try to become a doctor, I would probably lose my mind. I prefer medical technology, thank you very much.
In our mindless scramble to secure ourselves, we forget about the conditions of the less fortunate, leaving them to fend for themselves. I refuse to do that. The homeless, the junkies, the innocent, the addicts, the diseased, the guilty, the weak, they are all merely human in the end, and I will help them the best I can, all of them.

Love. Love is the most dangerous of all. Nothing threats security more then love, and we deny ourselves the true extent of it, usually for petty reasons. Perhaps we've been hurt before. So? Let it go, and move on. Love the next one openly and without hesitation, without the baggage of the previous relationship. Maybe he really is working late at the office. Nothing in this world offers true security, especially relationships, despite the fact we look to relationships more then anything for security.

Let go of this meaningless pursuit of perfection. The security it promises is but an illusion, and the reality around us, while at times less pleasent, is much more fulfilling. Let go of what you think you want, what you think you need in order to become a better person. Don't waste your time trying to perserve what you have when you should be enjoying it.

Appriciate what you have now.
Tomorrow it may not be there.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Class

This scene took place on a British Airways flight between Johannesburg, South Africa & London.

A white woman, about 50 years old, was seated next to a black man.

Very disturbed by this, she called the air hostess. “You obviously do not see it then?” she asked. “You placed
me next to a black man. I did not agree to sit next to someone from such a repugnant
group. Give me an alternative seat.” “Be calm please,” the hostess replied.
“Almost all the places on this flight are taken. I will go to see if another place is available.”

The hostess went away & then came back a few minutes later.
“Madam, just as I thought, there are no other available seats in Economy Class.

I spoke to the captain & he informed me that there is also no seat in Business Class.
All the same, we still have one place in First Class.”

Before the woman could say anything, the hostess continued. “It is unusual for our company
to permit someone from Economy Class to sit in First Class. However, given the circumstances, the
captain feels that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone so disgusting.”

She turned to the black guy & said, “Therefore, Sir, if you would like to, please collect your hand luggage, a seat awaits you in First Class.”

At that moment, the other passengers, who’d been shocked by what they had just witnessed,
stood up & applauded.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Desire of Happiness

I found this article on the Buddhist Channel (,7349,0,0,1,0), no doubt some of you have read it. It's pretty basic Buddhism, which is the kind I like best. You can never go wrong with going back to the basics, as it is where Buddhists of all traditions are most likely to agree, thus strengthening our foundation and identity as a global sangha.

I found it to be pretty good, I hope you enjoy it :)

An Open Heart's Desire For Happiness
OneIndia, Nov 5, 2008

New Delhi, India -- The purpose of spiritual practice is to fulfill our desire for happiness. We are all equal in wishing to be happy and to overcome our suffering, and I believe that we all share the right to fulfill this aspiration.

When we look at the happiness we seek and the suffering we wish to avoid, most evident are the pleasant and unpleasant feelings we have as a result of our sensory experience of the tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and forms that we perceive around us. There is, however, another level of experience. True happiness must be pursued on the mental level as well.

If we compare the mental and physical levels of happiness, we find that the experiences of pain and pleasure that take place mentally are actually more powerful. For example, though we may find ourselves in a very pleasant environment,if we are mentally depressed or if something is causing us profound concern, we will hardly notice our surroundings. On the other hand, if we have inner, mental happiness, we find it easier to face our challenges or other adversity. This suggests that our experiences of pain and pleasure at the level of our thoughts and emotions are more powerful than those felt on a physical level.

As we analyze our mental experiences, we recognize that the powerful emotions we possess (such as desire, hatred, and anger) tend not to bring us very profound or long-lasting happiness. Fulfilled desire may provide a sense of temporary satisfaction; however, the pleasure we experience upon acquiring a new car or home, for example, is usually short-lived.

When we indulge our desires, they tend to increase in intensity and multiply in number. We become more demanding and less content, finding it more difficult to satisfy our needs. In the Buddhist view, hatred, anger, and desire are afflictive emotions, which simply means they tend to cause us discomfort. The discomfort arises from the mental unease that follows the expression of these emotions. A constant state of mental unsettledness can even cause us physical harm.

Where do these emotions come from? According to the Buddhist world view, they have their roots in habits cultivated in the past. They are said to have accompanied us into this life from past lives, when we experienced and indulged in similar emotions. If we continue to accommodate them, they will grow stronger, exerting greater and greater influence over us. Spiritual practice, then, is a process of taming these emotions and diminishing their force. For ultimate happiness to be attained, they must be removed totally.

We also possess a web of mental response patterns that have been cultivated deliberately, established by means of reason or as a result of cultural conditioning. Ethics, laws, and religious beliefs are all examples of how our behavior can be channeled by external strictures. Initially, the positive emotions derived from cultivating our higher natures may be weak, but we can enhance them through constant familiarity, making our experience of happiness and inner contentment far more powerful than a life abandoned to purely impulsive emotions.

From the chapter, The Desire for Happiness: An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by The Dalai Lama, Nicholas Vreeland . text credit.

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.

Siddhartha Guatama Buddha (563 - 483 BC), Indian mystic, founder of Buddhism. Happiness, which is sought after by every soul, has its secret in the knowledge of the self. Man seeks for happiness, not because happiness is his sustenance, but because happiness is his own being. Therefore, in seeking for happiness, man is seeking for himself. What gives man inclination to seek for happiness is the feeling of having lost something which he had always owned, which belonged to him, which was his own self.

The absence of happiness, which a soul has experienced from the day it has come on earth and which has increased every day more and more, makes man forget that his own being is happiness. He thinks happiness is something, which is acquired. As man thinks that happiness is something which is acquired, he continually strives in every direction to attain to it. In the end, after all his striving, he finds that the real happiness does not lie in what he calls pleasures. Pleasures may be a shadow of happiness. There is an illusion of happiness, because all the illusion which stands beside reality is more interesting for the average man than reality itself.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Cost of Food

This really makes you think.

I guess this affects me as an Alaskan because food can get extremely expensive, especially out in the villages. This summer in the villages, a pound of potatos cost over $14 due to the high gas prices.

Speak Up.

"First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Social Democrat.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew,
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me."

- Pastor Martin Niemoller


We are all connected, even when we have nothing in common.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taxi Cab Compassion

A Cab Ride I'll Never Forget

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One night I took a fare at 2:30 AM, when I arrived to collect, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once.

But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened.

A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good man," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long." I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

"What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse. "Nothing," I said.

"You have to make a living," she answered. "Oh, there are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. Our hug ended with her remark, "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy." After a slight pause, she added, "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

[ Original Story by Kent Nerburn ]

posted at

Compassion was one of the Buddha's greatest lessons, and the beauty of compassion is that everyone is capable of it, no matter what the siuaation is. A taxi cab driver's compassion is more personal and profound then a charity dinner. Don't get me wrong, those charity dinners do raise tens of thousands of dollars for good causes, but compared to this story, it just seems so impersonal. I guess I would rather be a poor taxi cab driver giving direct compassion then a millionaire throwing money at charities.
Everyone has their own way of expressing compassion, and there are a thousand different ways to do it. How nifty is that? :)

What's your favorite story of compassion?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Honor of The Victims

I am not going to get too into the politics of the Syrian raid. There are good arguments all around. Reports say that Syria had been making advancements in curbing fighters entering Iraq, they had been making efforts to for peace talks with Israel, and their government resources are spread too thin to curb the terrorist activities any more then they already have. They themselves have been victims of terrorist activities, such as a car bomb in Damascus that went off a month or so ago, killing 28. I believe the U.S. acted too fast and too aggressively.

But this post isn't about that.
This post is about the innocent victims who were claimed. Reports are conflicting. The official report from Syria is 3 men, four sons of one of the men, and a wife. Local reports claim 7 men and a woman. However, both reports agree that children were killed. According to,
the victims are as follows:

Khalifa Ahmed (20 years)
Ali Abbas (50 years)
Mohammed Daoud al-Abdullah (50) and his four children:
Solomon ( 16)
Alyan (18)
Ibrahim (22)
Faisal (34)

It took me hours of searching online trying to find the names of everyone, especially the sons. I wanted to post this blog to honor their memory as civilians of this world, who were killed in a conflict that should not have killed them. The American public (and possibly other around the world), have gotten into the nasty habit of ignoring the victims. A victim without a name is just a statistic. Names too, especially Arab names, are easy for a Westerner to forget. Pictures, though, are unforgettable.



I cried for these victims, I honestly did. Especially the children. I didn't know any of these people, but I find myself mourning them all the same. If we had discovered that there was a prominent terrorist figure in an American city, would we raid our own country? Or would we use swat teams and special tatics forces who are trained to target the enemy and only the enemy. If this had happened in American, people would have been outraged if 7 civilians were killed in the pursuit of a criminal.
The purpose of this raid was to kill one prominent leader of a terrorist cell. Just one.
We killed him, but took 7 lives with him, possibly more. One one hand I know that if he hadn't been killed, his actions could have indirectly led to the death of hundreds of American and Iraqi soldiers. But in this raid, we killed 7 or more presumably innocents just to kill one guilty man.


Someone on a internet thread said "Thats just life. Sorry it didn't turn out the way your mommy promised."
I can understand the logic of that viewpoint, but I can't bring myself to believe it, or adopt it as my own viewpoint. I would like to, but I just can't. There is something very wrong with this whole situation, with this whole world, when we can shrug off the deaths of innocents without even bothering to honor them. Instead of shrugging it off, we should work to avoid such situations.

This is how I'm honoring them, in my own little way, in my own little niche that I've created in this vast internet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Goal

"After calculating that I wasted 6500 hours in church the first 25 years of my life, I vowed to spend 6500 hours doing volunteer work that would actually make a difference in the world."

- posted at

This is my goal.
I've always wanted to help people. I hate seeing people suffer, especially when I know there is something I can do about it. Its not so much about making a difference or feeling good about myself as it is about helping those who need it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Live for Today ^_^

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.

- Horace

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palinbots Scare Me

I've seen a lot of videos circulating the web of clippings at Palin rallies expressing their opinion of Barack Obama. This is not the most disturbing, but it still one that makes me sad because it is a good example of how Palin's thoughtless remarks have polarized the nation. Yes, true die-hard racists have come out of the wood-work, but I like to believe that some of the people you see in these videos are basically good people who are mindlessly following the herd and altered their way of thinking in order to fit in. Conformity is contagious.

Pastafarians Chase Out Hatred

Found on

Via the Arkansas Times blog we learn that Fred Phelps and his band of homophobic bigots from Westboro Baptist Church were recently driven out of Little Rock by a merry marauding band of Central Arkansas Pastafarians. The Pastafarians dressed as pirates in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, waved swords and signs bearing slogans such as “God hates shrimp — Leviticus” and “God hates cotton-polyester blends” confronted Phelps’ group. Passing cars honked and waved at the pleased Pastafarians while a nearby TV crew captured their antics, ignoring the group from Westboro Baptist. Eventually Phelps and the other anti-homosexual protesters were forced to pack up their “Fags Doom Nations” and “You’re Going To Hell” signs and leave town. Priceless!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Taking Risks.

Author unknown

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to others is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to do nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they forfeited their freedom.

Only the person who risks can be free.


I found this piece online today, and loved it.
The mainstream West often looks at Buddhism as people who do nothing and just sit. But when you think about it, this, in the eyes of the West, is a risk in itself.

The West defines "doing nothing" as someone who doesn't take risks. This means we follow the path set before us, get a job, a place to work, and that's it. In our crazy, money-driven world so focused on achievement, where time is money, one of the riskiest things a person can do is take time off to just sit in zazen. A person is being risky if they actually take the time to eat breakfast, much less sit down and actually eat breakfast, enjoying every bite.

Buddhists, in every corner and culture of the world, take risks. Look at the monks in Burma. Or the Tibetian refugees in Nepal. The Buddhist community of South Korea.
Or, better yet, look at the monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists at your local sangha. Everyone of the them are taking risks in one way or another, big and small. Buddhism helps them deal with the risks in a way that is practical and thoughtful.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bush vs. Jesus

Only in today's political world ^_^


Religion and Sexuality

I found this using StumbleUpon. It makes me glad that I am Buddhist.
Check it out.

Keep in mind that this was compiled 14 years ago in 1994, so some views may have changed. What are your thoughts?
The topic of sexuality is a passionate one of mine. If a person is straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual, that's fine by me. It's not my business, or anyone else's.
I take issue with pedophilia, rape, and other unconsentual acts.
I am a passionate advocate of birth control, and a woman's right to have options in regards to her sexuality.

I think its because Buddhist do have a truely unique view on the world which affacts every aspect of life, even sexuality. The Middle Way which allows us to look at life without extremes and absolutes, finding moderation, even when the rest of the world denies the existance of such moderation. Sex can bring suffering. Embarassment, STDs, anger, emotional ties, questions. Maybe thats why so many religions condemn it outside of marriage. But Buddhists only take issue with sex when it brings suffering. Sex in itself is relatively free of suffering. It's an act, thats all. What brings suffering is how sex is used. One night stands, or leading a person on in a relationship only for sex, or engaging in unprotected sex when you have an STD, that can lead to suffering. Sexual addiction is also another form of suffering, or using sex as a distraction from real problems.
But healthy sex, as a part of a healthy relationship, that only adds to the relationship.

Once again, any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Angels and Assholes

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realised God doesn’t work that way,
so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness."

- Emo Philips

This made me laugh.
It reminded me of one of the fallacies I would always question when I was a Christian; if we are guaranteed instant forgiveness upon asking, then why bother being good?

It somehow reminds me of my father.
My father used to have a serious drinking problem. He would drink and drink and drink until it was 4 in the morning, and he couldn't even stand. I would wake up the next morning, and he would be out on the porch at 9 am, in the bright sun, reading the paper. I have never seen my father with a hang-over. I doubt he's ever had one. And so he never learned, and would drink again the next night. Hangover's are God/Universe/Nature's way of saying, "Idiot. Try some self-discipline next time." Suffering exists for a reason; we learn from it. He never suffered, so he never learned. (Okay, he eventually learned)

I was raised Christian.
I never fit in too well. I got in trouble with my youth group a lot. I brought a lesbian to church once (she wasn't well received). I read "The DaVinci Code" on a bible retreat (one lady told me I was poisoning my mind with the Devil's work). I asked all the wrong questions that made leaders shift uncomfortably and change the subject. I argued when a youth group leader told me and several other young girls that the bible gives husbands a right to beat their wives while the other girls around me stood quietly, accepting their possible fate. I advocated (and still do) gay rights, bisexual rights, transgendered rights, women's rights, comprehensive sex education, cultural understanding/awareness, and freedom for others to express their religion peacefully.
I didn't fit in too well.
Needless to say, I am no longer Christian.

I will admit, I do carry a certain amount of pride that I was able to walk away from the Christian church without any grudges, spite, or hate. Really. It just didn't work for me, so I left in search of something else, which eventually became Buddhism. I met a lot of good Christians who actually take to heart Jesus's teachings of love and forgiveness. It works for them, and I will not judge them negatively because of it. And knowing that there are good natured Christians in the world helps me deal with the ones who preach hate and intolerance. Some people had such a bad experience with the church that they get together with other anti-Christians just to bitch and moan, spreading the false belief that all Christians are intolerant, all Christians are rude, all Christians are hateful.
And that just gets us nowhere.

"There are angels and assholes in every religion."

This is something I encourage fellow Buddhists, as well as anyone else who stumbles upon this blog, to remember. Especially in this election season, when it seems like the angels fade away as the assholes come out of the woodwork and turn on their microphones, preaching their agenda of intolerance. Don't let them get to you too much. If you do, then they're already winning. Just remember, for every loud and belligerant asshole, there are a dozen quiet angels of every belief, who live around us and are helping their neighbors, being thankful for what they have, volunteering for a good cause, humbly making a difference, and smiling kindly, even on the rainy days.

quote found at:

Friday, October 10, 2008


My zen class held class at Uto-An, the local zen place of worship. I hesitate to use the words temple,monastary, or any other term for buddhist religious gathering, because it is simple a rented house where we do zazen in the livingroom. But there is suits our needs, and is simply Uto-An.
It's very peaceful, and Koun led us through a ceremony chanting the heart sutra, as well as a couple other chants, my favorite being one praising compassion.
It was fun. I am going to start going on Sundays, after mid-terms.

On a less-then-cheerful note, I have been dealing with a very debilitating anxiety condition. Anyone have any advice, particularly Buddhist-based advice, on how to deal with anxiety? It would be much appriciated.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Garrison Keillor Speaks of Impermanence

A Shame to Leave This World Early
by Garrison Keillor

I was in Santa Monica for a day last week, sampling baked figs at the farmers’ market on the Third Street promenade, a sweet sunny day that makes an old Midwesterner like me a little nervous. We fear seduction. Some days in California are so tender and delicious that a person could abandon all commitments and wind up living in blissful stupor in some cult devoted to the worship of the sky.

I have work to do. I haul it around in a black case the size of an anvil and when an hour or two opens up, in an airport or hotel, I dig in. I don’t lie on beaches, looking up at the sky. It’s blue in Santa Monica. You don’t have to look at it for long to figure that out.

My hotel was on the beach, so I headed back that way, crossing the Pacific Coast Highway on a pedestrian bridge. And there, 50 yards south of me, police cars and flashing blue lights. The northbound lanes of the PCH had been closed. A car sat in the middle lane, its rear end smashed in brutally. And south of it, a yellow tarp spread on the pavement. A body lay beneath it.
Then eight cops and EMTs lined up on either side of it, like pallbearers, and then they spread out a long white sheet which they held as a screen while the yellow tarp was pulled away and a police photographer took pictures with an enormous camera. A man in a dark suit bent over the body, studying it closely. The eight men stood quietly, hardly moving, and they looked straight at each other. They did not look at the body. It was a still-life scene, except for the flashing lights and the southbound traffic passing: eight men standing at attention, guarding a body, and two men moving with great delicacy around it, gathering evidence.

A blue sky over Santa Monica and on the beach, people lay on towels, sunning themselves. A few swimmers in the surf. Roller bladers out on the sidewalk and joggers, grunting about the presidential campaign. A day in which you’ve witnessed death takes on an aura of fragile loveliness. You breathe the salt air and you savor this on behalf of the dead and note the pencil-line delicacy of the long cane poles of the Japanese fishermen on the pier, the two triangles of white sail taut with wind on the distant boat, the skinny boy in blue trunks swinging high on the flying rings on the beach and soaring to the next set of rings. You see the portly man wade into the water and shudder as the water touches his testes and you feel it, the shudder of mortality. And visions of the fallen one stay with you.

A few hours later, online, news that the victim was a woman, 44, whose car had been rear-ended, that she had gotten out of her car and stood waiting for help to arrive and was struck and killed by a third vehicle. Her name was Alma and she was from Los Angeles.
The day goes on and though you don’t keep in mind the sight of the pallbearers around the body, the death attends you wherever you go. You imagine the woman’s plan for her day, maybe lunch in Malibu and a meeting at her kids’ school and supper and a movie afterward, a simple day in sunny L.A., and you abandon your own plan to work and instead you walk around looking at the shining world on behalf of Alma who died on the highway.

You buy a mango/papaya smoothie and a cafe mocha and in the face of death they are spectacular. You sit at a table in the brilliant sunshine, the light splashing off the stone facades and aluminum moldings. She was standing by her car waiting for help to arrive when she was struck by another vehicle and killed, and 30 minutes later men were standing at attention around her. It would be intolerable not to know the name of the woman. Attention must be paid. She trails alongside you as you walk into a bookstore full of art books and you pick up one with pictures of California beach houses, all whites and yellows and pale blues, sun-drenched rooms, bowls of flowers, cotton curtains, and the sea beyond. A beautiful world, Alma, and every day is a gift. I’m sorry you had to leave early.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Palin: Pro-Rape

I'll admit, I was hesitant on posting this on a blog that I wish to remain Buddhist base. I do not wish this blog to get too politically involved in the current election but, I suppose, as a woman from Palin's hometown, this is a little hard to do. I already have two or three blog mentioning Palin and my opinions about her.
This posting is different.
I am not posting this because I am against Palin.

I post this because I am Buddhist woman, one who is concerned about the suffering of the world, especially its women. And rape is definately a form of suffering, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It shouldn't have to include finacial suffering as well. I post this because I lived in Wasilla under Palin. Because Palin's pro-life stance is so extreme, it is no longer pro-life, it is pro-rape. There is no Middle Way in Palin's eyes, no room for compromise or consideration. Because I am a woman who lives in a state with one of the highest rape rates per capita. Because my sister in law was just raped last week. Because no woman should be charged $1200 after enduring a brutal rape. (Thank goodness then-governor Knowles got rid of that law.)

September 15, 2008
Life begins at rape... ask Mayor Sarah Palin
By Shannyn Moore

Can you imagine having to pay for the CSI (crime scene investigation-fingerprinting, photography, etc) if your home was robbed? What if a bill came for the breathalyzer tests if you'd been hit by a drunk driver? When Sarah Palin was mayor, the city of Wasilla had the most egregious policy against victims of rape in the state of Alaska, possibly the entire country. The rape kit, a set of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following a sexual assault, was charged to the victim. (note: step 6)

I sat with a rape victim during the "harvesting of evidence". Mascara smeared eyes stared blankly out from a cave of shame. "We've got swimmers," announced the forensic tech in the lab next door. My friend didn't look surprised. In her 60's, she was still asked if she felt the need for emergency contraception. Surviving the process would have only been compounded and made worse with an itemized bill; victimized twice courtesy of Sarah Palin and the city of Wasilla.
Much can be learned about the Palin Administration's family values from reviewing their spending priorities. Former Chief of Police Irl Stambaugh included forensic rape kits (up to $1,200 per kit) in his budget requests. He was fired by Palin in 1997. In her termination letter, Palin wrote, "…I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment. . . " Staumbaugh headed the police department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he served 22 years with the Anchorage Police Department rising to the rank of captain. Sarah Palin hired Charlie Fannon as the new Wasilla Chief of Police and said it was one of her best decisions as mayor. Fannon eliminated the forensic rape kits from the budget. Though the number of rapes weren't reported, Fannon claimed it would save Wasilla taxpayers $5,000 to $14,000 a year.

When Eric Croft, a Democrat Legislator from Anchorage, learned of Wasilla's policy, he drafted HB 270, which Governor Tony Knowles signed into law. The new law made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims' insurance companies for the costs of examinations to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault actually occurred. Upon signing the law, Governor Knowles said, "We would never bill the victim of a burglary for the cost of gathering evidence, nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies."

Wasilla Police Chief Fannon protested the new law stating it would require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. Really? Are the true costs of sexual assault and forcible rape in a community only measured and reflected in the dollars spent on the forensic rape kit?

Alaska has the nation's highest per-capita rate of forcible rape. A disproportionate number of rape and sexual assault victims are Native Alaskan women. Alaska Native people in Anchorage were 9.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than others living in the city between 2000 and 2003. Alaska crime statistics never seemed to make a "Northern Exposure" episode. But this isn't about statistics-real lives were affected by Palin's regressive policies. One thing Alaska can't seem to export is the fundamental information around a woman's rights. Alaska "liberalized" abortion laws before Roe v. Wade. Our dirty secret had to do with a woman's right to be safe from rapists. This right to choose was not only threatened, but abolished with Sarah Palin's archaic policy as Mayor of Wasilla. The rape kit included emergency contraception. To be sure, emergency contraception is not, nor does it cause an abortion. In fact, ec prevents pregnancy and therefore reduces abortions.

Under Palin's Administration, "Life Begins at Rape" for women unable to pay for their forensic evidence gathering. Justice is served to women who can afford it and denied for those who can't. I live in Alaska-the wealthiest of the 50 states! Forcing rape victims to pay for their own forensic rape kits is something one would expect to find in a fundamentalist country overseas. I have outrage fatigue. I can't decide which facet of this policy is more upsetting. Is it the denial of justice for the poor? Is it the punishment of women who had been raped? Is it the political policies of a woman so entrenched in the "Pro-Life" movement she would deny justice to a victim? This is not a "Pro-Life" policy. This is a "Pro-Rapist" policy, and forced pregnancy policy.
It should be noted Joe Biden introduced legislation to fund rape kits to women in America. John McCain voted against it.

When Sarah Palin was elected Alaska's first female governor, I hoped these issues would be addressed as part of her "historic" platform. When Amnesty International published their study on rape statistics and Alaskan women, the response was pathetic. The now dismissed Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, acknowledged the lack of law enforcement in Alaska as part of the problem. Since that time, Walt Monegan has been fired and $2.5 million dollars threatened from the budget for State Troopers. John Cyr is executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, and has been very critical of the Palin administration's commitment to keep Alaskan's safer.

Under the Palin Administration, a law was passed that specifically deals with rapists. I am not making this up. It is now illegal for Alaskans to buy or sell the "Rapist No. 1" doll. Oh, you haven't heard of it? It's an "action figure" from Quentin Tarantino's film "Grindhouse." Yes, really. So now if you're raped, you can take comfort in knowing Alaska outlawed an action figure.
For all the Alaskans who have taken the charge to protect fellow citizens from predators, this was A GIANT WASTE OF TIME. It's embarrassing to write this. Who in the hell has been prosecuted for this "outrageous" purchase. Did she think people in Alaska with the propensity to rape women were suddenly dissuaded because they couldn't buy a movie action figure?
If Alaska's sexual assault statistics were true for the rest of the country, rape would be considered an epidemic and the National Guard would be called up. As Mayor and Governor, Sarah Palin has made justice illusive to criminals and forensics a commodity that victims must purchase. Meanwhile, rape prevention sits on the backburner. Being a rape victim isn't necessary for outrage. You don't need ovaries to protect the physical sanctity of fellow citizens. Life does not begin at rape, it just gets harder.

My apologies that the links don not work. The original article can be found here:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Polar Bears

A piece written by my favorite feminist, Eve Ensler. It reflects my feelings perfectly in regards to Sarah Palin, my state's governor. Enjoy.

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Middle Way of Death.

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 event, and as I read the posts of various blogs I follow, of the editor letters in the paper, and general internet chatter, I find myself thinking about death.

Especially the topic of mourning a death of a loved one. Death, and our reaction to it, is a perfect example of the Middle Way that Buddha lived and taught. You see, when you think about it, its rather selfish to mourn the death of someone. If you believe in a life after death, either Heaven, Pure Land, reincarnation, etc, then you can be comforted by the hope that maybe they are in a better place. If you are of the opinion that death is the final end, then you can be comforted that they are no longer suffering. Either way, mourning is selfish, a way to comfort ourselves, to drown ourselves in regret, sorrow, and loss.

Yet modern psychology tells us that mourning is A) perfectly natural and B) healthy, when done properly.

In order to further understand, we must realize that the word "selfish" is free of any positive or negative connotations. To be selfish, in it's truest sense, is merely to take care of one's body and mind. Now one can be too selfish, or not selfish enough, and both of those paths lead to suffering.

The purpose of mourning is simply a way to deal with death, to recognize our attachment to that person, and to learn to let go of that attachment. Sounds healthy enough, and usually it is. Sometimes though we take that sorrow and loss and wrap it around us, letting it overwhelm us, drowning in the despair like an angsty teenager without a prom date, shaking a fist at the sky and saying "Oh, woe is me!"
When we do that, we are not mourning for that person, but for what we've personally lost, and in doing so, I think, is rather disrespectful of the deceased. We are supposed to be mourning for them, reflecting and acknowledging their life, not obsessing over what we have lost and forgetting the present moments passing us by. Its rather ironic when you think about it; we lose present moments by obsessing over what we have lost. By obsessing over the loss of a life, we lose part of ours.

Another way people try to deal with death is to be strong, not letting their natural emotions affect them at all, and go back to their daily lives. They may throw themselves into their work, or keep as busy as possible so they won't have to deal with the person's death. Psychologically speaking this is unhealthy because the person is not confronting the death and their feelings connected to the loss, and because they do so, they are denying reality, thus creating dukka (dissatisfaction).

Thus we have the middle way of death and mourning, to acknowledge the death, deal with our feelings surrounding the death, honoring the dead by reflecting on their life, and not using their death as an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves, or denying the affect their death has on us altogether. Letting go of our attachment to their lives and moving on with ours.

Yoga Nidra

Last night we had a relaxing yoga nidra class and before hand did a 108 mala chant of "Om Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu" (may all beings everywhere be free and happy), in honor of the anniversary of 9/11. It was my first time actually using a mala and now has cemented my desire to purchase one. I had been curious about them for a while.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Momentary Bliss

The most peculiar thing happened to me this morning. The exact instant I woke up, I had it.

For a split second, I had it.

For a split second, everything made sense.

The well known phrase "Emptiness is form, form is emptiness" (heart sutra) had been on my mind a lot lately. I haven't been trying to make sense of it so much as just becoming familiar with it and the concept, especially the definition of emptiness. The more I get into this, the more I realize that "emptiness" doesn't seem to be the exact right word, but it's the closest we have in our language. It feels as if something is lost in translation, and we use to word emptiness to describe whatever it is, for lack of a better word. It works well enough, especially when you remove the negative connotation emptiness has been associated with in the Western world.

Anyways, when I woke up this morning, it flashed through my thoughts, applied itself perfectly to the concepts of the eight-fold path, and for a split second, everything made sense and the biggest smilespread on my face. I was happy before I even realized why I was happy. I don't think even now I fully realize/understand why I was so happy. It felt like a release.

For a split second.

It died as qucikly as it appeared, probably because my brain, although understanding it, was trying to apply it in a logical fasion, and I lost it.

But it was a cool feeling.

I'm not making any claims to enlightenment, all I'm saying is that today, for the briefest of moments, I understood something better then I had before, and it was nifty.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Clinging to Suffering

As I've been practicing Buddhism and applying its teachings in my life, I've made an observation that never fails to surprise me.
Peopl, often don't want to let go of our suffering. Some things that cause suffering are easy to let go of. But once and a while, we encounter something, a point of suffering we don't want let go of. We tend to wrap it around ourselves like a comforting blanket.
I've noticed several examples of this within myself as I practice, but the latest (and most extreme) example of this that I've noticed is a loss of a relationship. A friend of mine is still in love with a man, even though it's been over a year since they broke up. They still hang out a lot, so she has never had any time to get closure, let go, and move on with her life. She constantly clings to the notion that their getting back together would make her life better. By doing this she rejects the reality around her, and creates her own reality where she and him are back together, and life is perfect because of it, and because of this, she constantly suffers. It breaks my heart every time I hear her mention it, every time she calls me crying. She needs to let go, accept the reality of the situation, and move on so she can enjoy her life. She knows this, has admitted to knowing this, and yet she refuses to let go, or even attempt to let go. She keeps him close, a constant reminder of what she had, and what she wants.
I want to help her let go and relieve her suffering, but I don't know how. The only thing I can do is let her learn to let go, and comfort her every way I can until then.
I've done this too, I think most everyone has at some point in time, no matter how long or brief. Humans are social creatures, and we crave comfort, we crave companionship and closeness. To have someone to love and trust is is invaluable in a society where everyone puts their needs first.

Anyways, this is something I've noticed again and again. As I've practiced the Middle Way and applying Buddha's teachings to my life, I have come across causes of suffering that I can deal with easily, and causes of suffering that I don't wish to let go of, even though I know I must in order to relieve the suffering they cause. People will sometimes come to a source of suffering that they don't want to let go of, even though they know it will cause suffering.

She is one of my dearest friends, even though I've only seen her a handful of times since college started, we have survived much together, from a grueling chemistry course to being chased by Italians across the Florence plaza, to experiencing the top of the Effeil Tower together. I hope she gets through this.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That Dirty Little A-word

Recently on the Buddhist Channel website, I read a very interesting article dealing with abortion.
Ahhh, abortion.
The nifty thing about the topic of abortion is that everyone has something to say about it, everyone wants to put in their 2 cents, and those who remain quiet while the debate rages on around them have an opinion, but are too busy, polite, or shy to say anything.
Normally this is something I would be posting in my personal blog, and I may copy and paste it there later on. But since this is the blog that I receive actual comments from actual people who use that vital little organ known as a brain, I figured I would post it here first, simply because I wish to state my opinion, and then hear your thoughts and opinions, no matter how similar or different.

Reproductive rights is something I have been passionate about for a long time, and right now the issue has become a big issue in our local gossip because our governor has just been chosen to be McCain's Vice President.
Sarah Palin, an evangelical who opposes abortion, even in cases of incest and rape, who has vowed to work with McCain to overtunr Roe v. Wade, who opposes pre-marital sex, who has refusd funding for comprehensive sex education and pushed for abstinece-only education.
Sarah Palin, whose 17 year old unwed daughter is pregnant.

I have tried to go on as long as I can without saying anything, but it has caused such a controversy that I can't help myself, so please forgive me as I put in my 2 cents and get a little political. (Disclaimer: If I say something here that offends you as the reader, please note that this isn't personal, just merely my opinion. I hope you will respect it, even if you don't agree with it, just as I would respect your opinion regardless of my personal beliefs)

And now, for my political opinion regarding reproductive rights, our governor Sarah Palin, her pregnant daughter Bristol, and this whole politcial election:

In regards to Bristol Palin, everybody just fucking STOP!
Put away your thoughts, your opinins, your holier-then-thou attitudes, your comments, your sympathies.
Take a deep breath and look at the big picture of the situation.
Bristol Palin is a 17 year old GIRL! A mere girl, yet our media is putting so much attention on her because she made a choice, and is facing a consequense of that choice, a consequence she knew beforehand was possible, but she made that choice anyways.
Respect that choice. Regardless of your opinion, please, I am begging you, respect a choice that she made, one that she cannot unmake because it is in the past. It is done with, move on.
Her pregnancy is not in anyway a judgement of her character, or an indication of her mother's parenting skills. The age of consent in this state is 16, so there is no under-age controversy. She is considered an adult in the eyes of the law.
Her pregnancy is not in any way an indicator of her mother's ability to govern or do her job, and therefore the political community should drop the entire matter and focus on Governor Palin's beliefs, opinions, and record.
As I mentioned above, Bristol Palin, for all that she is capable of making adult decisions, is still young. An unexpected pregnancy, especially in an evangelical home where pre-marital sex is one of the biggest sins, is hard, and all this media and political coverage is certainly not making it any easier. Her pregnancy is nobody's business but her own, and whoever she choses to include, such as her mother, or boy who got her pregnant. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of pressure and ridicule this girl is facing, started by people who really have no place in this matter, who just want to bitch and moan and complain.
It is none of my business, and as a person who is adamently pro-choice, I know Bristol has chosen to keep the baby, and I respect that. She made a choice. It is not a matter of whether or not I agree with it, merely that I respect it. (If the family's finacial situation was less-fortunate, then I would go off on a tangent on the matter welfare, but fortunately this is not the case. The Palin family is more then able to support another child.)
Giggle if you want at the irony of a pregnancy happening in a family that condems comprehensive sex education. But as far as politics goes, this is a personal matter, and should stay that way.
So back. the fuck. OFF.

Now that I've gotten that out (and I feel much better), let us move on.
I will not be voting for Sarah Palin, for the reasons stated above, mostly in regards to her opinions of sex education and abortion. I cannot ethically vote for a woman who would take away the choice of reproduction from American women. Just as Bristol's pregnancy and choices regarding that pregnancy isn't any of my business, the choices concerning my body and choices I make for it aren't any of hers.

Moving on...
Finally, to the article I mentioned about a thousand words ago. If you wish to read it in it's entirety, you can find it here:,7060,0,0,1,0

It's very good because it forces to reader to step back for the whole issue and look at the larger picture. The entire abortion right's debate is indeed a very good example of what happens when we set moral absolutes, something that fundamentalists of certain religions are quite fond of doing. Buddhists, as a general rule, tend to shy away from absolutes of any kind. From a Buddhist persepctive, yes, an abortion could easily be seen as the taking of a life (let's not get into the whole "Is an zygot/embryo/fetus really alive/human" questions). But Buddhists also realize the reality of life and death. All things die, and all the dies, at one time, has lived. Our thinking tends to transcend the life vs. death upon this realization, and our focus on the present moment and it's realities.
In other words, when you think about it, abortion isn't that big of a deal, especially when you compare it to the violent politics surrounding the issue. The article pretty much concludes that while Buddhists (in general) are reluctent to support an abortion, they won't out-right deny it either. This is my opinion as well. Rarely will you ever hear me actually encourage abortion as the best choice, but should a person make that choice, I will accept it, respect it, and not think any less of them. I would rather the child be wanted then unwanted.

Annnnnyways, there you go. It's a great article if you are interested in the subject, so check it out. I would love to hear any oppinions, whether they agree or oppose.