Saturday, August 30, 2008

Buddhism and Feminisim

Disclaimer: Readers be warned, this posting contains frequent use of the dirty little F-word.

No, not that one. The other one.


I am a feminist.

Feminism, of course, being defined as equal rights for men and women (and hermaphrodites too. Feminism isn't about man-hating. It isn't about pissed-off lesbians. It isn't about yelling angrily at crowds and public bra burning. (I happen to love my bras). Most feminist are straight, and the bisexual/lesbian one usually aren't angry. The few ones who are angry man-haters aren't feminists, they are women who have issues that they need to face and come to peace with.

But feminism, at times can be very frustrating. It can make you angry. I read the reports of the thousands of girls in Africa who are forced to undergo female genital mutilation in order to become "pure" makes me cry every time. (Female genital mutilation, also called FGM, is the removal of the clitoris, often with a knife or a shard of glass. This often renders the female unable to experience sexual arousal and an orgasm when she reaches sexual maturity.) To read about the wives in India who are burned alive because they didn't produce a male heir will get me absolutely infuriated.
Yes feminists do get angry, usually when we see heinous violations against other women. Can you blame us? We also rejoice. We laugh. We cry and mourn. We learn. We question, constantly. We challenge, we debate, we argue, even with other feminists.

However, I would be lying if I said feminism didn't have a sharp, angry edge to it, anger at all the injustice of the world.
I believe all people should have equal rights, regardless of gender and sex. I get angry when I see an injustice towards other women committed; I get angry when I see injustice to men committed.

Yes, I am a feminist.

But I am also a Buddhist.

Feminism fulfills a need in my life, a need for justice, a need to see the wrongs committed in this world against my fellow humans, and a reason to strive to fix these injustices, to raise awareness. I've taken women studies classes; I've studied the issues, both past and current. I've written papers, given presentations, send letters to the newspaper editor. I know the related issues, and I constantly read up on them, research the facts, view them from all angles. I'm not shy about voicing my opinion of such topics, and I do so in a civil manner. People are more likely to listen to a polite and friendly feminist then a loud and belligerent one.
I live in a state that boasts the highest domestic violence rates in America. Every 1 in 5 women will be raped in my city. At 824, my zip code has three times more registered sex offenders then any other zip code within the city.
Yes, this angers me.

Buddhism calms me; it gives me peace, compassion, and awareness.

It’s kind of like a yin and yang balance. Feminism and Buddhism aren't really much alike, yet in my life they complement and even complete each other. The Buddhist calms the Feminist. The Feminist stimulates the Buddhist, giving it questions, raising awareness and concerns. The Buddhist provides peace while the Feminist provides awareness. I'm having a difficult time explaining this as eloquently as I would like too, but basically there is a balance there, and to me, it is a very beautiful balance.

You get the idea.

I am a big fan of the concept of balance. I don't really believe in a world were there will be supreme peace or constant violence. As long as people exist, there will be acts of violence, as well as acts of compassion and peace. Balance plays a large part in my personal belief system, and I love finding examples of balance in my life. This particular one, the balance of Buddhism and feminism, really excites me as it is a elegant relationship between of two of my biggest passions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buddha says...

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
- Buddha

This is one I need to remember.
I tend to define myself on what I can do for others. I like to help people. I'm a broke college student who is constantly absorbed in my studies and work, so there usually isn't much I can do. But I try. I give rides (most of my friends don't own a car), offer food or drinks, comfort, laughter, advice, what ever I can.

I like to please others. But sometimes I get so obsessed with pleasing others that I tend to forget about myself. It's actually a human habit: when we have a lot of obligations and a full schdule, the thing we tend to neglect first is ourselves. I have a hard time saying no to people, if they need help, want me to do something with them, or just hang out in general, I go out of my way to make it happen, or try to. Occasionally, especially when I get really busy, this tends to lead to a lot of stress and frustraition. I want to please everyone, and usually I can't.

I tend to feel bad and unworthy of the good fortune in my life. My parents pay for nearly everything to keep me a live and in college. (I have a job, but it is very low pay and with school starting up, very few hours. I keep mostly for the job experience.) I have a decent apartment, a reliable car, paid college education. I shouldn't have it this easy.

I need to remember this quote. Maybe post it up on my bedroom wall.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

10 Second Epiphany

No one, not even the enlightened ones, knows everything. The only difference between us and them is that they don't need to know.

....thoughts that enter my head while I do the dishes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Buddha says...

"A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden."
- Buddha

This quote weighs heavily in my mind. I was raised in two families, living mostly with my mother, and living with my father on the weekends.
My father's family was full of alcoholism, cigarette smoke, verbal abuse, cable tv on all day, lots of animals, old books, long sunny days by the lake, watching my dad constantly build and add on to the house, turing a cramped weekend cabin into a moderately sized home. The nights were long and loud, either with fighting or laughter.
My mother's house was large, white, spacious, cold. My sisters married young and moved a gtand total of two blocks away. They came over often, usually with all their children in tow. No one smoked or drank or swore, the tv was usually off, the nights were quiet. My mom and I were moderate chrisitans, my sisters were far more conservative, one to the point of evangelicalism.
In other words, my two homes were complete opposites of each other, and I really didn't fit into either of them. My relationship with some of them is rather shaky, though somewhat improved from years past. I've slowly managed to forgive and get over ym step-mother's abuse, and I have managed to hide certain aspects of my life from my mother's family in order to keep the peace. I wish I could be myself around them, honestly I do, but that would create more havoc then good.
I love them, and they love me, or at least, their perception of me. I fear what would happen if I told my mom and sisters that I was Buddhist. My mom discovering that I was bisexual did enough damage, I don't wish to further strain our relationship.

Because of this, I have adopted a third family, my friends. They have their own flaws, and they are accepting of mine. I can talk, laugh, hug, and cry with them without fear of judgement, and the really good ones will be there for me and help me when I need it, just as I try to help them. I consider them my family, but that is no reason for me to distance myself from those who are related to me by blood and marriage.

I need to spend more time contemplating this verse and my current situation with my family. The good thing about this quote is that it's meaning, a harmony of minds, can apply to both family and friends.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Toast to the Path I Did Not Take

I like to walk in the park near my apartment. It has a few paved paths, but the real fun lies in the spiderweb labyrinth of narrow dirt trails that weave themselves through the woods. I'm always reminded of the painfully over-used Frost stanza, "Two paths diverged into the woods..."

And that, in turn, reminds me of the choices I did not make, the paths I passed by. My older sisters are all married, Jenny a month after her 20th birthday, Amanda at 22, and Carrie around the same age. The first two pop out kids fast enough to make your head spin (They're all really cute though). My little sister is a devout Mormon who will undoubtedly go to Brigham Young University in search of her MRS degree.

I, on the other hand, inherited my father's intense need for travel, love of companionship, and slight fear of commitement. I could have followed my sisters. I could have married my high school sweetheart, saved up for a nice little house in suburbia, or go to college, meet a nice guy, spend $40,000 on a degree I would never use because I would be at home raising his kids. I don't have anything against people who marry, or have kids. It's just I was never one of those women who's biggest goal was a wedding. I would rather elope at city hall and spend the money on a kick-ass honeymoon roaming Nepal, getting lost in Japan, scuba diving in Austrailia, running with bulls in Pamplona, or visiting clubs in Amsterdam.

I have nothing against kids, honestly, I just plan on never giving birth to one. I would rather adopt, or if the guy already had kids from another relationship, spoil the hell out of them ^_^ Some people would have issues raising another person's kid, but honestly I would prefer it. There are so many kids in this world who need good parents, I cannot morally justify having my own kids when I know there are those out there who need a loving family. Being a stay at home mom was never on my list of life-goals. (Stay-at-home dads, on the other hand, are awesome. I couldn't find any on Craig's list though. Maybe the new models aren't out yet, Sweden bought all the last ones.)

A lot of people in my high school class got married/engaged in our senior year. That was their plan to mature, their only way out, their statement of adulthood. Life would be better for them, because they had a ring on their finger. While the logic is laughable, there is comfort in having a companion at your side as you stumble through life, especially the hard years of youn adulthood, years of crappy low paying jobs, living below poverty, getting into debt in the name of education. To have someone eases the stressfulness of starting out. I can understand that. The choices we make, the paths we choose, define us. I don't believe in a divine plan, and while most Buddhist believe in reincarnation, I can't guarantee that either. Why bother worrying about what-comes-next? Why not focus on what-is-now?

I could have had this:

Me and my high school sweetie, Stoner, with a kid. (Portrayed by the lovely Morgan Bacon, my awesome niece.)I could have had this. But I don't. It's not the path I chose.

Instead, so far, I've gotten this:

Late night, stressed-out, caffine-induced cramming for classes and finals

Bellydancing all summer long and perfecting my shimmy

Babysitting drunken room mates

Techni-colored hair

Amazing raves with beautiful music pulsing through the night

The occasional party (I don't really drink, but this is the only picture I have of the best party I went to)

10 body piercings (and more modifications coming soon)

One snake, a cute baby ball python

Crazy, uber-dorky friends

Dancing until the sun came up

Beautiful submission.

A couple of driving mis-adventures (easily remedied by duct tape)

Flogging bruises.

World Travel. I've covered France, Italy, Monaco, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russian, Estonia, Germany, Denmark, Canada so far.

Buddhism and spiritual discovery.

Quiet moments filled with peace and happiness. Times of sorrow and frustration, days of anxiety and fear, moments of joy, of contentment, of wonder.


I will never be the type of person who says "I have no regrets." Of course I have regrets. I make mistakes, large and small, every single day and I've done stuff I'm not proud of. But that's how we learn, from both our successed and our failures. This is the path I choose, and it would be foolish of me not to enjoy traveling it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zen 101

I've been reading "The Heart of Buddha's Teaching" by Thich Nhat Hanh. I had read/skimmed through a few previous books introducing Buddhism, but this one is the best so far. I realized this was the one for me based on one simple fact: I'm reading it very slowly. Ridiculously slowly.
Usually that's a bad thing, it means I can't get into the book, and will eventually set it down where it will remain untouched until who knows when.
But this is the first book I've intentionally read slowly. I find myself savoring each word. I'll read a chapter, think about it for a few days or weeks, then go back, review it, and read the next chapter, and repeat the process.
I've never enjoyed a book so much, not so much for the content itself, but the experience of the book.

School starts in three weeks for me, so I've been reading like crazy, trying to enjoy the precious last few moments of free time before diving back into my studies. I decided over the summer I want to learn some basic Japanese and go to Japan in a few years to experience it. I feel so uncomfortable going to countries where I don't know the language, where I get in line behind all the other tourists, and feel as if there is a wall between me and the local culture. I loved going to France because I knew enough French to explore the streets, ask for directions, order a meal, shop in the stores, etc. I hated Italy because I didn't even know how to say hello, so I just followed the tourist groups everywhere, saw all the sights that the tourists are obliged to see, that are set up and preserved for the tourists, and I feel like I missed out on a great deal of culture. So when I go to Japan, I want to go to Japan, I want to experience it. I want to get lost and eat at little local holes in the walls and crash at cheap motels and hostels, laugh with everyone around me, local and tourist alike.
So I looked at the Japanese offerings at the University. It's a popular language to learn here, so the program is pretty good. I can't take any Japanese classes this fall because of my work schedule, but this spring I should be able to figure something out. As I was looking at the course listings, I found out that the Japanese department is offering a Zen Buddhism class, and only had one spot left. How nifty is that? It is only one credit, and doesn't collide with my work schedule. I was giddy for the rest of the day.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Buddha at home

Yesterday I finally managed to set up my alter. Some Buddhists don't have keep personal alters, some do, its a personal choice thing. I like having one around. Seeing Buddha sit peacefully, meditating in the candle light reminds me of his teachings, of the four noble truths, the eightfold path.
It's on top of a small bookshelf in my bedroom. Buddha meditates infront of four candles, one for each noble truth. I love it.

Buddha says....

"Let us live in joy, free of hatred, among the spiteful; among the spiteful let us live without hatred." - Buddha

I love this quote. All around me, and sometimes in myself as well, I see so much hatred in places where joy would be better benefited.
Instead of hating an old friend's betrayal, why not take joy in the times when the friendship was strong?

Take joy in all things. Live in joy.

It something I find myself working on everyday, to live in joy, despite the hatred around me. The path is bumpy, but the result is rewarding ^_^

Bookcase Buddha

Its pretty late (4 AM), so I don't have time to write anything as meaningful or profound as I would like. But Buddhism was on my mind today, as it is everyday.

I let frustraition get better then me today at work. I felt really bad about it later, there was no reason for it, and I felt so bad afterwards because I realized how pointless it was to become frustraited in the first place. It definately reminded me on how Right View affects everything, my level of frustration has definately decreased since I have starting changing my perspective on things.

I went to a store after work today and bought a little bronze Buddha statue for my alter. It sits about six inches high, in front of him is a zen-style candle holder holding four tealight candles, one representing each Noble Truth. He looks very peaceful.